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‘Nation of terror’ Iran was behind tanker attacks, says Trump

US Central Command released footage it said shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from a Japanese-owned tanker.

An oil tanker on fire in the sea of Oman (AP Photo/ISNA)
An oil tanker on fire in the sea of Oman (AP Photo/ISNA)

Donald Trump has confirmed the assessment of senior advisers and publicly accused Iran of being behind recent attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.

The US president said Iran was “a nation of terror” whose culpability had been”exposed” by the US.

He was speaking to Fox News after the US military released a video it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers, suggesting Tehran wanted to hide evidence of its alleged involvement.

Iran denied any role in Thursday’s apparent attacks, which have again rocked the Persian Gulf amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over the unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

Four other oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port city of Fujairah suffered similar attacks in recent weeks, and Iranian-allied rebels from Yemen have struck US ally Saudi Arabia with drones and missiles.

Mr Trump withdrew America last year from the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran reached with world powers and recently imposed a series of sanctions now squeezing its beleaguered economy and cutting deeply into its oil exports.

While Iran maintains it has nothing to do with the recent attacks, its leaders have repeatedly threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s oil travels.

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An oil tanker on fire in the sea of Oman (IRIB News Agency/AP)

Iran accused Washington of waging an “Iranophobic campaign” against, while Mr Trump countered that the country was “a nation of terror”.

“Iran did do it,” he said of the attack.

The black-and-white US video of the Iranians alongside the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous came after its crew abandoned ship after seeing the undetonated explosive on its hull, said Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command.

It shared photos of the vessel, which showed what appeared to be a conical limpet mine against its side.

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A suspected mine on the Kokuka Courageous (US Central Command/AP)

In the video, the boat from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard pulls alongside Kokuka Courageous. The Iranians reach up and grab along where the limpet mine could be seen in the photo, and then sail away.

In a statement from its UN mission, Iran accused the US of escalating tensions.

“The US economic war and terrorism against the Iranian people as well as its massive military presence in the region have been and continue to be the main sources of insecurity and instability in the wider Persian Gulf region and the most significant threat to its peace and security,” the statement said.

In Tokyo, the owner of the Kokuka Courageous said its sailors saw “flying objects” before the attack, suggesting it was not damaged by mines.

The suspected attacks occurred about 25 miles off the southern coast of Iran.

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The Front Altair with smoke rising from it in the Gulf of Oman (European Commission/AP)

The Front Altair, loaded with naphtha from the United Arab Emirates, radioed for help as its cargo of flammable chemicals caught fire. The Kokuka Courageous, carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, called for help a short time later.

The US Navy sent the USS Bainbridge, which picked up 21 sailors from the Kokuka Courageous, and they stayed overnight on the destroyer, returning to their vessel on Friday to help in it being towed.

Thursday’s attack resembled one in May that targeted four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. US officials similarly accused Iran of using limpet mines, which are magnetic and attach to a ship’s hull. The mines are designed to disable — but not sink — a vessel.

PA

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