Crew saw ‘flying objects’ before Japanese ship attacked in Gulf, as US releases video of Iranians removing mines from vessel

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The US military on Friday released a video it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, as if to suggest Tehran tried to remove evidence of its alleged involvement.

The ships’ operators offered no immediate explanation on who or what caused the damage against the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous. But the operator of the Kokuka Courageous said the crew saw “flying objects” before an explosion, suggesting the ship was not damaged by mines.

Each tanker was loaded with petroleum products, and the Front Altair burned for hours, sending up a column of thick, black smoke.

“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters earlier without providing any evidence. “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.”

Iran has denied being involved in the attack, calling it an “unfounded claim” in Washington’s “Iranophobic campaign”.

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