In this photo provided Monday, May 11, 2020, by the Iranian Army, the Konarak support vessel which was struck during a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman, is docked in an unidentified naval base in Iran. An Iranian missile fired during a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman struck a support vessel near its target, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15, Iran’s state media reported on Monday, amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S. (Iranian Army via AP)

Iran says 19 of its sailors killed in training accident, months after it accidentally downed plane

The army identified those slain as officers and enlisted men, including a combat diver

A missile fired during an Iranian military training exercise mistakenly struck a naval vessel instead of its intended target in waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15 others, Iranian authorities said Monday.

The bungled training exercises took place Sunday and raised new questions about the readiness of the Islamic Republic’s armed forces amid heightened tensions with U.S., just months after they accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jetliner near Tehran, killing 176 passengers.

It also comes soon after a tense naval encounter between Iranian and U.S. forces in the nearby Persian Gulf.

President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers two years ago, launching a maximum pressure campaign against Iran that has pushed the archrivals to the verge of conflict repeatedly.

Analysts have warned regional tensions likely will increase again. This week also marks the anniversary of attacks on oil tankers near the strait that the U.S. blamed on Iran.

In Sunday’s friendly fire incident, a missile struck the Iranian navy vessel Konarak near the port of Jask, some 1,270 kilometres (790 miles) southeast of Tehran in the Gulf of Oman, the Iranian army said in a statement. Iran’s regular navy typically patrols those waters, while vessels from the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard usually patrol the Persian Gulf.

The Konarak, a Hendijan-class support ship taking part in the exercise, came too close to a target and the missile struck it, state TV said. Authorities did not identify the ship that fired the missile, though semiofficial media in Iran identified it as the Iranian destroyer Jamaran.

The Konarak had been putting targets out for other ships to attack, state TV said.

Initially, officials said only one sailor had been killed. That number quickly changed to 19. A hospital admitted 12 sailors and treated another three with slight wounds, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Iranian vessels towed the Konarak to a nearby naval base after the strike. A photograph released by the Iranian army showed burn marks and damage to the vessel, although the military did not immediately offer detailed photos of the site of the missile’s impact.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had bought the Dutch-made, 47-meter (155-foot) vessel just before being toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Konarak entered service in 1988 and crews later overhauled the vessel about 30 years later, making it able to launch sea and anti-ship missiles. Because of international sanctions, Iran still relies on weaponry purchased under the shah.

READ MORE: Recordings show Iran knew jetliner hit by a missile: Ukraine

The boat typically carried a crew of 20. Authorities did not explain why it had 34 people aboard when the missile struck. The army identified those slain as officers and enlisted men, including a combat diver.

It appeared the sailors may have been firing Noor anti-ship missiles during the exercise, said Reed Foster, a senior analyst at Jane’s. He said a replacement for the vessel “will likely take years to come into service” and was a blow to the navy that also has seen a destroyer sink in the Caspian Sea in January 2018.

“Perhaps the greatest impact to the Iranian military and government is that this is the second high-profile incident in less than half a year where mistakes in missile targeting have resulted in significant loss of life,” Reed said.

Reed added that the friendly fire incident “damages the credibility” of claims by the Iranian military and government that the country can develop sophisticated defensive weapons despite international sanctions.

This likely will provide new fodder for the U.S., which has been actively campaigning to keep a United Nations arms embargo in place on Iran that is due to expire in November.

Iran regularly holds exercises in the Gulf of Oman, which is close to the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world’s oil trade passes.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which monitors the region, did not respond to a request for comment.

Tensions had been expected to rise after Iran’s government overcame the initial chaos that engulfed its response to the coronavirus pandemic. In April, the U.S. accused Iran of conducting “dangerous and harassing” manoeuvrs near American warships in the northern Persian Gulf. Iran also had been suspected of briefly seizing a Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker just before that.

“Potential exists for a limited direct conflict, even though neither side wants one,” the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies said.

___

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Nasser Karimi And Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

IranMilitary

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary rescinds all Grand Forks-area evacuation orders

Evacuation alerts for 1,136 Boundary properties remain in effect as officials monitor forecasts

Pay guarantee removed for some Kootenay on-call paramedics

Guarantee phased out as BCEHS introduces a new “scheduled on call” model

City of Rossland looks to electrify vehicles and equipment

City council passed three motions on June 1 to work towards commitment

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

Trail centenarian looking forward to her letter from the Queen

With COVID protocols quashing gatherings, Irene can only have a small celebration for her 100th bday

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Nelson counsellor works online with university students in central Asia during pandemic

Robin Higgins is home from her job in Tajikistan because of COVID-19

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Angel Flight takes flight from Creston after being grounded by COVID-19

Angel Flight is a volunteer-run organization which gives people flights to doctors appointments

Most Read