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Iran missile accidentally strikes own navy vessel, killing 19 sailors

Iran's armed forces regularly hold exercises in the tense region [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2020

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A missile accidentally struck a support vessel that was sailing too close to a target in a training exercise, the Iranian armed forces said.

An Iranian missile struck a naval vessel taking part in an exercise in the Gulf of Oman on Sunday, the army said, killing at least 19 sailors and wounding 15 others.

The friendly fire incident happened on Sunday near the port of Jask, some 1,270 kilometres (790 miles) southeast of Tehran, in the Gulf of Oman, state TV said.

Iran's armed forces regularly partake in training exercises in the sensitive region.

The Gulf of Oman connects to a key waterway that has been the site of a number of attacks on oil tankers over the past year, the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's oil passes.

During the exercise, the Moudge-class frigate Jamaran accidentally hit the Konarak, a Hendijan-class support ship that the army said was too close to a target. The Konarak had been putting targets out for other ships to hit.

Iranian media said the Konarak had been overhauled in 2018 and was able to launch sea and anti-ship missiles. The Dutch-made, 47-metre (155-foot) vessel was in service since 1988 and had capacity of 40 tons. It usually carries a crew of 20 sailors.

Iranian media rarely report on mishaps during its exercises, signaling the severity of the incident.

This incident also comes amid months of heightened tensions between Iran and the US, since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed crushing sanctions on the country.

A spate of tanker seizures and attacks on oil infrastructure hit the Gulf last year, with the US and its allies in the region - Saudi Arabia and the UAE - mainly blaming the incidents on Iran.

Hostility deepened in January this year when a US drone strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. Tehran responded by firing missiles at an Iraqi base hosting US troops, injuring dozens in the process.

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