The Iranian Navy’s “Konarak” ship that sank in Jask port near the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday hit the seabed while it was laying mines and not after being struck by a missile.
Nineteen Iranian sailors have been killed and 15 injured, some severely, in a friendly fire incident involving two Iranian naval vessels, the country’s navy has said.
The incident is another severe blow to the prestige of the Iranian military still recovering from its unintentional attack on a Ukrainian civilian aircraft departing from Tehran on 8 January, which killed all 176 people onboard.
“The Navy’s Konarak warship sank after a mine it laid exploded, and not due to a hit by a missile launched from the Jamaran frigate,” a high-ranking source in the Iranian Armed Forces Staff Command was quoted as saying by Kuwait-based Al-Jarida today.
The now-destroyed 47m ship was bought by the Iranian forces from Netherlands to provide logistics support. A report on state TV said the Konarak was struck “after moving a practice target to its destination and not creating enough distance between itself and the target”.
“The ship was then modified to enable it to carry cruise missiles and lay mines without being detected from the air,” he added.
On May 10, a test was being carried out to check whether the Konarak can lay mines without being detected by radars or other means. “But, the mechanical device responsible to carry out the operation suffered a malfunction that let one of the mines to detach itself. It exploded and caused a cruise missile (test target) also to blow up,” the official explained.
Iranian state media had reported earlier that the Konarak vessel sank during a botched test of an anti-ship missile. The Navy’s Jamaran frigate fired the missile prematurely, hitting the vessel that was putting targets out in the water.
Nineteen sailors are confirmed dead, and fifteen others were injured in the incident.
“Iran wanted to lay mines in Gulf waters quickly, in the event of a confrontation with the US Navy. So the authorities decided to announce that the Konarak was damaged in a friendly-fire,” the source claimed.
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most strategically important seaways and over the past year or so the number of military vessels has grown as nations either in alliances or separately have sought to protect commercial shipping operating under their national flag.
The numerous accidents and friendly fires in a year question the capability and professionalism of the Iranian Military.
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