US military releases video it says depicts Iran removing mine from oil tanker

The U.S. military released a video late Thursday evening that it says shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) removing a mine from a targeted oil tanker, hours after the Trump administration claimed that Iran was responsible for an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. 

U.S. Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban released a timeline and photographs suggesting that the U.S. military observed Iranian vessels returning to the tanker to retrieve the unexploded mine, The Washington Post reported.

“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 Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, Urban said, according to the Post.{mosads}

Reuters noted that such imagery released by Central Command is typically difficult to declassify. The news service reported that Thursday’s release appeared to signal U.S. efforts to convince the international community that Iran was responsible for the day’s attacks on the Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned Front Altair.

Tehran has denied the allegations. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a press conference Thursday the attacks were at the hand of Iran, without going into further detail of what evidence the United States had.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used and the level of expertise needed 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,” he added, without taking questions. 

“The United States will defend its forces, interests and stand with our partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability,” Pompeo said.

The Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous were reportedly attacked Thursday morning in the Gulf of Oman, about 25 miles off the southern coast of Iran. 

The attack comes weeks after alleged sabotage attacks against four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. The United States similarly blamed those attacks on Iran, pointing to limpet mines that officials said were Iranian.

The Trump administration in May warned of unspecified “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” coming from Tehran and deployed a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the region in response. The administration is pointing to Thursday’s tanker attacks, as well as a rocket attack last month that landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, as evidence of the warning’s validity. 

Updated Friday at 7:10 a.m.

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