US releases footage 'showing Iran removing mine from tanker'
The US military released video footage it claimed showed an Iranian military patrol boat approach one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday as tensions increased in the region over the incident and oil prices rose.
President Donald Trump's administration’s is trying to lay blame for the “attack” on Iran.
The unidentified small patrol vessel is seen in the footage alongside the Kokuka Courageous. A crew member then appears to remove an object from the tanker’s hull.
Unnamed US officials were quoted in media reports as saying the boat was from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the object a limpet mine.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration believed blasts on the two tankers were caused by the Iranian military “based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation”.
Iran has denied responsibility as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif suggested players could be trying to provoke a conflict between Iran and the US.
Tensions between the two traditional enemies were heightened when Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected a suggestion to revive talks with the US.
“I do not consider Trump as a person worth exchanging any message with and I have no answer for him, nor will I respond to him in the future,” he said.
The suggestion came from Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while on a visit to Tehran and thought to have been sanctioned by Trump.
The US Navy moved to help the two vessels in the Gulf of Oman off Iran's coast, including one that was set ablaze on Thursday morning by an unidentified explosion. The ships' operators offered no immediate explanation on who or what caused the damage against the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous.
Each was loaded with petroleum products, with the Front Altair burned for hours, sending up a column of thick, black smoke.