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Iranian warship hit during military exercise, 19 killed

Iranian warship hit during military exercise, 19 killed
© Getty Images

Iranian officials said that 19 sailors were killed Sunday in a friendly fire incident during a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman.

Iran’s military and state media said the Konarak, a Hendijan-class support ship, veered too close to a target during the exercise and was struck by a missile. In addition to the 19 dead, Tehran said 15 sailors were wounded in the incident, The Associated Press reported.

State TV reported that the incident occurred about 790 miles southeast of Tehran near the port of Jask, and that a local hospital admitted 12 injured sailors and treated another three with more minor wounds. The 155-foot vessel, which has been in service since 1988, was reportedly overhauled in 2018 and had the capacity to launch sea and anti-ship missiles, according to the AP. It typically carries a crew of 20 sailors, according to Iranian media.

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The nation said it towed the ship into a nearby naval base after the strike. The area is a frequent site for Iranian exercises in the region, and is close to the Strait of Hormuz, through which about one-fifth of the world’s oil passes.

The incident is the second this year involving the misfiring of an Iranian missile after a January episode in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jet and killed all 176 people aboard.

Official Iranian media do not often disclose such accidents during training exercises, suggesting the strike on the Konarak was particularly serious, according to the AP.

It follows months of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran that preceded the coronavirus pandemic. In January, the two countries briefly seemed poised for war after the U.S. killed Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad, after which Iran launched a nonfatal airstrike on Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops.