The explosion of two tankers in the Gulf of Oman Thursday morning got more incendiary Friday with the Pentagon’s release of footage that it says shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers hours after an explosion on board. Iran denied involvement, accusing the U.S. of undertaking an “Iranophobic campaign.”
Still shots released by the U.S. appear to show a limpet mine affixed to the Kokuka Courageous ship, and the video captures what the Pentagon says is a Revolutionary Guard patrol boat pulled up next to the Kokuka Courageous. An individual then stands up and can be seen removing what the U.S. says is a mine from the tanker’s hull. “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,” a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement.
U.S. officials said the video was shot by U.S. military aircraft. The attempt to remove the unexploded mine was particularly brazen because it came many hours after the initial explosions took place, such that there were multiple U.S. aircraft in the area surveying the scene as well as the destroyer USS Bainbridge.
“The owner of stricken chemical tanker Kokuka Courageous has said the crew saw something fly towards their ship, a claim at odds with the US Navy’s suggestion it was attacked with limpet mines,” the Financial Times reports. “Speaking shortly after the attack on Thursday, [the Japanese shipping company] said the explosions were on the port side of the Kokuka Courageous. However, the US images showed damage and a suspected limpet mine on the starboard side of the vessel.”*
Update, June 14, 2019: This post has been updated with additional information about the Japanese shipping company countering U.S. military claims about the explosion aboard the Kokuka Courageous.