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Iraqi naval forces work to neutralize mine discovered on oil tanker

Iraqi naval forces work to neutralize mine discovered on oil tanker

Iraq deployed explosives experts to an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf after a mine was discovered aboard this week, according to The Associated Press.

The mine was attached to a tanker rented from Iraq’s State Organization for the Marketing of Oil (SOMO) while it refueled another vessel, according to the Iraqi government. Sailors said Thursday they had discovered what they believed to be a limpet mine on the MT Pola, a Liberian-flagged ship off the port of Basra.

Although Iraq officially confirmed the discovery Friday, the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations reported an “unknown object” stuck to a vessel’s hull near the Khor Al-Zubair port as early as Thursday, according to the AP.

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Sudharsan Sarathy, a senior oil analyst at the data-analysis firm Refinitiv, told the AP that the Pola was engaged in a transfer between ships with the Bermuda-flagged tanker MT Nordic Freedom.

The confirmation came amid escalating tensions in the region between the U.S. and Iran. The U.S. deployed a nuclear submarine to the Persian Gulf, with officials saying they were concerned about a possible attack on the first anniversary of the U.S. drone killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

The team from Iraq’s Interior Ministry was airlifted to the tanker Friday, according to Iraqi officials. The ship set to receive fuel from the Pola was evacuated while the team worked on the mine, according to the AP.

Washington previously accused Iran of several limpet mine attacks on oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz in 2019, which Iran denied.