Pentagon releases new images from Gulf of Oman 'attack'
The Pentagon says the images it released were taken from a US helicopter in the Gulf of Oman [US Navy/Handout via Reuters]
The US military has released new images it says show Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) removing an unexploded mine from a Japanese-owned tanker following an alleged attack on two vessels in the Gulf of Oman on June 13.
The images also show a hole on the side of the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, that officials say appears to have been caused by another mine.
The new images follow the earlier release last Friday of a grainy video, which the US said shows the IRGC removing a suspected limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous on the day of the incidents.
Washington blames Tehran for the reported attack in which explosions on two vessels near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz were recorded, forcing crews to abandon their ships.
“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” the US military’s Central Command said in a statement accompanying the still images.
Iran has vehemently denied any involvement, hinting that the US may have carried out the suspected attack in order to apply extra pressure to Iran on top of crippling sanctions it re-imposed recently.
Allies urge restraint
It is still not clear what caused the explosions last Thursday, with the Japanese operator of one of the tankers saying that crew members saw “flying objects” before the blast.
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Speaking to Al Jazeera the day after the incident, Justin Bronk, a combat technology specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, said the patrol boat shown in the video released that day was known to be the kind used by the IRGC.
However, Bronk added that if Iran had been responsible for the attack, removing the mine would “be a very, very brazen thing to do,” while under high scrutiny from the US.
“On the other hand, you could argue that they [the Iranians] were keen to pick up an exploded mine to avoid it linking back to them. Although, realistically, if this was the Iranians, there will be enough evidence to link back to them even without the unexploded mine.”
Regardless of the cause, the incident has added to sky-high tensions between the US and Iran, and in the Gulf region.
Iran announced on Monday that it would no longer comply with part of a landmark nuclear deal with the US and other world powers, which the US withdrew from last year.
While, shortly after the new images were released on Monday, the US said it would be sending 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for “defensive purposes”.
The United Nations, European Union and several allies of the US and Iran have urged both sides to show restraint, with the UN saying on Thursday that the world cannot afford a “major confrontation in the Gulf”.
China on Tuesday said that the US should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.
In a briefing, State Councillor Wang Yi, the government’s top diplomat, called on all sides to “remain rational and exercise restraint”.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies