At least 19 Iranian Navy personnel are dead and 15 more injured after the warship “Konarak” was struck by Iran’s own missile near Jask Port in southern Iran.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) confirmed the 19 deaths and 15 injuries in a report Monday.
IRNA revised the casualty toll after it initially reported 16 personnel had been hospitalized with injuries following the accident, including one person who later died, three who were soon released, and 12 who remain hospitalized.
The IRNA reports noted the accident occurred during a training exercise, but did not mention any friendly fire accident.
“Expert investigations are underway about the cause of the incident,” the IRNA reported, asking everyone to avoid raising speculations.
“#Iran Navy confirms fatal accident aboard vessel ‘Konarak’ during exercise but not reports of friendly fire incident involving Anti-Ship Missile (AShM),” tweeted Joseph Dempsey, a defense analyst for the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Dempsey’s tweet also included photos purporting to show the damaged Iranian vessel.
#Iran Navy confirms fatal accident aboard vessel ‘Konarak’ during exercise but not reports of friendly fire incident involving Anti-Ship Missile (AShM) https://t.co/5QA2gdIXQz pic.twitter.com/QBninLlzZR
— Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) May 11, 2020
The Associated Press later reported, citing a later state TV segment, that the Konarak was struck during what was indeed a friendly fire accident. The accident occurred during a missile training exercise in the Gulf of Oman when the vessel reportedly ventured too close to a target. The Konarak was in charge of placing targets out in the water for the anti-ship-missile training when it was struck.
Video alleging to show the damaged ship and efforts to put out fires caused by the missile strike has also surfaced.
“#Iran’s Military now confirms Navy accident killing 19 and injured 15 of its sailors,” tweeted Joyce Karam, a Washington-based correspondent for the United Arab Emirates news outlet, The National. “Iranian Missile hit by mistake an Iranian ship in Gulf of Oman.”
#Iran’s Military now confirms Navy accident killing 19 and injured 15 of its sailors.
Iranian Missile hit by mistake an Iranian ship in Gulf of Oman: pic.twitter.com/xzc4VLS9da
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) May 11, 2020
Other pictures and videos of the incident have also been circulating around social media, but their authenticity could not be verified.
Iranian vessels reportedly towed the damaged Konarak, into a nearby naval base. The extent of the damage to the vessel is not yet known.
Iran was involved in a previous missile accident in January when Iranian missile forces shot down a Ukrainian airliner it mistook for “hostile target” that turned in the direction of a “sensitive military center.” The target was indeed an airliner taking off from an airport in Tehran, carrying 176 people. All 176 people on board were killed.
The January accident occurred the same night that Iranian missile forces launched a volley of missiles at two U.S. bases in neighboring Iraq.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been heightened through recent months. This latest friendly fire accident occurred just weeks after U.S. Navy ships were approached by Iranian speedboats in the Persian Gulf. President Donald Trump recently announced he had given the Navy authorization to fire on any Iranian vessels that harass U.S. ships.