Press TV – The US military has released a grainy video that it claims showed an Iranian navy boat removing an unexploded mine attached to the hull of the Japanese-owned tanker Kokura Courageous attacked in the Gulf of Oman.
The video was released by the US Central Command late Thursday, purportedly showing “Iranian sailors” removing a mine from the Kokura Courageous’ hull.
In the video, a smaller boat is shown coming up to the side of the Japanese-owned tanker. An individual stands up on the bow of the boat and can be seen removing an object from the tanker’s hull.
The US claims that the object is likely an unexploded mine.
“At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous,” the CENTCOM said in a statement.
It also provided a Powerpoint slide that it claimed showed “damage from an explosion and a likely limpet mine on the hull of the civilian vessel M/V Kokuka Courageous”.
The US military says its destroyer USS Bainbridge, as well as a US drone and P-8 aircraft, had been on the scene for four hours before the alleged Iranian boat arrived. US defense officials claim that the Iranians were seeking to recover evidence of their involvement in the attack.
Japan operator: Ships hit by ‘flying objects’
The Japanese ship operator on Friday disputed the US claims, saying its sailors on board the Kokuka Courageous saw “flying objects” just before the attack, suggesting the tanker wasn’t damaged by mines.
“The crew told us something came flying at the ship, and they found a hole,” President Yutaka Katada of Kokuka Sangyo told a press conference in Tokyo. “Then some crew witnessed the second shot.”
Social media users also challenged the US video, saying its low-quality did not indicate either the country to which the boat and its crew belonged or the purpose of what they apparently did.
The footage was released a few hours after the administration of US President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the attacks without providing evidence.
“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” Pompeo said.
The attacks came as the world was awaiting the news of a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in Tehran.
First response to distress call
Iranian rescuers were the first to rush to the assistance of the two oil tankers after they sent a distress call, transferring all of their 44 crew members to Iran’s southern shores.
“While Japan’s prime minister is meeting with the number one figure of the Islamic Republic of Iran to reduce tensions, which clandestine hands seek to undermine these efforts in the region and who benefit from it?” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Friday.
Jon Alterman of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “There is always the possibility that somebody is trying to blame the Iranians.”
“But there is the greater likelihood that this represents an effort” to create a perceived international urgency to have the United States and Iran talk, he added.
The attacks surprisingly coincided with Ayatollah Khamenei dismissing any negotiation between Iran and the US during a meeting with Prime Minister Abe and refusing to accept any message from Trump.