The Pentagon has released photographs that officials say back Washington’s accusation that Iran was behind the explosive attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
A Navy explosives expert reportedly briefed media on new colour photographs taken by a Navy surveillance helicopter that had hovered over the scene of the drama.
It also released a timeline today that it says shows Iran had carried out the attacks on Japan’s Kokuka Courageous and Norway’s Front Altair.
Its brief included multiple images it claims shows Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel removing an unexploded limpet mine from the side of the Kokuka.
The expert told reporters a mine was placed above the water-line on the Kokuka, in an indication the attack was intended to damage the ship but not sink it, reports Bloomberg .
President Donald Trump had last week accused Iran of the attacks, and was partially backed by the UK, which said it was “almost certain” Tehran had carried out the missions.
“Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine,” according to a statement Bloomberg reported accompanied the new pictures.
The United Nations has called for an independent investigation into the incident amid rapidly heightening tensions between the US and Tehran.
According to the Pentagon’s timeline, the Altair reported an attack first, sending a distress call at 3.12am to a nearby destroyer. A second destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, then moved to its location to offer aid.
At 4am the Kokuka reported being hit by an external projectile. Its crew said it was taking on water and had a fire in its engine room.
At 5.09am Iran’s Hendijan PGG and “multiple fast inshore attack craft” were observed in the area, the Pentagon has claimed.
Four minutes later the Front Altair confirmed a major fire.
By 6.26am an Iranian patrol boat requested a Dubai vessel hand over crew rescued from the Front Altair and it complies.
At 8.05am the Bainbridge approaches a Dutch Tug that had rescued the crew of the Kokuka, but an Hendijan PGG was seen trying to get to the tug first.
Twenty seven minutes later the sailors rescued by the Dutch crew are transferred to the Bainbridge.
Tehran had earlier denied being being behind the attack, which had caused crude oil prices to spike immediately following the incident.
Its officials had claimed it was being used as a “convenient” scapegoat and accused the US of “warmongering”.