U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) released video footage late Thursday of what they say are Iranians removing an unexploded mine from one of the oil tankers that was attacked near the Strait of Hormuz this week.
The United States has blamed Iran for the attacks, and officials now say this video footage helps prove it.
Watch the video here:
At around 4:00 p.m. on the day of the attack, “an IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous [oil tanker] and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous,” CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said.
“The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests. Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce,” Urban said.
Two oil tankers were hit in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran on Thursday, one reportedly hit by a torpedo. The Norwegian-owned Front Altair was allegedly hit by a torpedo, news outlets reported, and it was on fire in the Gulf. The Kokuka Courageous tanker also suffered damages after a “suspected attack,” according to reports.
Iran was immediately suspected of having coordinated the hits. One of the tankers was carrying Japanese goods, and Iran and Japanese officials met yesterday in Tehran. The tankers were near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategic, heavily trafficked waterways, where one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes through. The attacks also took place near the location where Iran was accused of sabotaging four tankers last month.
The U.S. Navy on Thursday responded to the scene and helped evacuate the tankers.
This is the timeline of events, according to CENTCOM:
U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time from the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and a second one at 7 a.m. local time from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.
Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls. USS Bainbridge was approximately 40 nautical miles away from the M/T Altair at the time of the attack, and immediately began closing the distance.
At 8:09 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair.
At 9:12 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observes the FAC/FIAC pull a raft from the M/T Altair from the water.
At 9:26 a.m. local time the Iranians requested that the motor vessel Hyundai Dubai, which had rescued the sailors from the M/T Altair, to turn the crew over to the Iranian FIACs. The motor vessel Hyundai Dubai complied with the request and transferred the crew of the M/T Altair to the Iranian FIACs.
At 11:05 a.m. local time USS Bainbridge approaches the Dutch tug Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of twenty-one sailors from the M/T Kokuka Courageous who had abandoned their ship after discovering a probable unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.
While the Hendijan patrol boat appeared to attempt to get to the tug Coastal Ace before USS Bainbridge, the mariners were rescued by USS Bainbridge at the request of the master of the M/T Kokuka Courageous. The rescued sailors are currently aboard USS Bainbridge.
“The U.S. and the international community, stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation,” Urban added. “The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the
Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.”