US says Iran removed unexploded mine from oil tanker

Two oil tankers damaged in Gulf 'attacks' | News

The video and photographs showing a boat alongside the hull of a larger vessel with a hole in its side were released by the US Central Command along with a timeline of the episode.

But at 4.10pm local time, Centcom said "an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous".

American officials released images they said show that Iran was involved in an attack on an oil tanker near the entrance to the Persian Gulf on Thursday (June 13), one of a pair of incidents that have raised tensions between the United States and Iran over the past day.

Iran has fiercely denied the U.S. assertions, with its mission to the United Nations condemning what it called unfounded claims.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Washington would defend its forces and allies in the region, and the United States pressed its case as the UN Security Council met to address the incident - the second in a month in the strategic shipping lane.

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Taiwan's state oil refiner CPC said the Front Altair, owned by Norway's Frontline, was "suspected of being hit by a torpedo" around 0400 GMT carrying a Taiwan-bound cargo of 75,000 tonnes of petrochemical feedstock naphtha, which Refinitiv Eikon data showed had been picked up from Ruwais in the UAE.

Front Altair's status was updated to "underway using engine" at 09:05 GMT on Thursday, according to marinetraffic.com.

The U.S. Navy sent a destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, to assist, said Cmdr.

Explosions also struck the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which was loaded with methanol, but the fire on board was soon extinguished.

On May 12, four oil tankers - two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati - were damaged in still unexplained attacks off the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

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Iran denies involvement and said it was alarmed by allegations that it was responsible for the attack on the tankers.

However, U.S. and European security officials as well as regional analysts cautioned against jumping to conclusions, leaving open the possibility that Iranian proxies, or someone else entirely, might have been responsible.

Tensions have escalated in the Mideast as Iran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord that US President Donald Trump repudiated previous year. He described the ships as being hit in a "reported attack", without elaborating.

Magnetic limpet mines were previously used by Iran to sabotage oil tankers during the so-called "Tanker War" in the late 1980s.

The incident comes after the USA alleged that Iran used mines to attack four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah last month. The mines disable, but don't sink, a vessel.

At the request of the United States, the Security Council was to meet behind closed doors later Thursday to discuss the situation in the Gulf.

Tensions have escalated in the Mideast as Iran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, an accord that the Trump administration repudiated a year ago.

Iran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to find new terms for Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

"Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table at the right time, to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the broad range of threats", he said.

Already, Iran says it quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium. Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions have cut off opportunities for Iran to trade its excess uranium and heavy water overseas, putting Tehran on course to violate terms of the nuclear deal regardless.

His message came just hours after Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi airport, striking its arrivals hall before dawn and wounding 26 people Wednesday.

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