US Navy says mine fragments point to Iran in Gulf of Oman tanker attacks

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Items collected by the US Navy from Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous tanker are displayed at a UAE Naval facility near the port of Fujairah in the UAE Wednesday. (Reuters)
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Damage to the hull of the Kokuka Courageous tanker during a tour of the vessel by the US Navy on Wednesday. (Reuters)
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A magnet that the US Navy said came from a limpet mine that didn't explode on Kokuka Courageous. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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Items collected by the US Navy from Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous tanker are displayed at a UAE Naval facility near the port of Fujairah in the UAE Wednesday. (AFP)
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Items collected by the US Navy from Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous tanker are displayed at a UAE Naval facility near the port of Fujairah in the UAE Wednesday. (AFP)
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The Japanese oil tanker Kokuka Courageous off the port of Fujairah on Wednesday. (AFP)
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US Navy Commander Sean Kido speaks during a press briefing at a UAE Naval facility near the port of Fujairah on Wednesday about the attack on the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman last week. (AFP)
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The two oil tankers were attacked in Gulf of Oman. (FILE)
Updated 20 June 2019
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US Navy says mine fragments point to Iran in Gulf of Oman tanker attacks

  • The mines bear a resemblance to some that were displayed in Iranian military parades
  • The US commander talked to reporters in a NACENT facility in Fujairah

FUJAIRAH, UAE: The United States Navy on Wednesday displayed limpet mine fragments and a magnet it said it had removed from one of two oil tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week, saying the mines bore a striking resemblance to Iranian ones.
The United States, waging a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Iran to curb its nuclear and regional activities, has been trying to build an international consensus that Iran was behind last week’s blasts, as well as a May 12 strike on four oil tankers off the UAE.

Tehran has denied any involvement in both attacks near the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit route for global oil supplies, but the incidents have raised fears of broader confrontation in the Gulf region.

Damage to the hull of the Kokuka Courageous tanker during a tour of the vessel by the US Navy on Wednesday. (Reuters)

The US military previously released images it said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous, which was hit by explosions along with the Norwegian-owned Front Altair ship on June 13.
“The limpet mine that was used in the attack is distinguishable and also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades,” said Commander Sean Kido, commanding officer of an explosive ordinance dive and salvage task group in the Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).

Items collected by the US Navy from Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous tanker are displayed at a UAE Naval facility near the port of Fujairah in the UAE Wednesday. (AFP)

He was speaking to reporters at a NAVCENT facility near the UAE port of Fujairah. Small fragments said to have been removed from the Kokuka Courageous were on display alongside a magnet purportedly left by the IRCG team allegedly captured on video.The Japanese company that owns the Kokuka Courageous had said that its ship was damaged by two “flying objects,” but NAVCENT dismissed this.
“The damage at the blast hole is consistent with a limpet mine attack, it is not consistent with an external flying object striking the ship,” Kido said, adding that nail holes visible in the hull indicated how the mine was attached to the ship.

The location of the mine above the ship’s waterline indicated the intention was not to sink the vessel, he said.
Kido also said NAVCENT had collected biometric information including fingerprints from the ship’s hull that would help in building a criminal case.
He said the United States was working with regional partners on a “joint and combined investigation,” but declined to name the countries taking part.
Washington and Riyadh have publicly blamed Iran for last week’s attack and the sabotaging last month of four ships, including two Saudi tankers, off Fujairah, a major bunkering hub. Several European nations have said more evidence is needed.

US Navy Commander Sean Kido speaks during a press briefing at a UAE Naval facility near the port of Fujairah on Wednesday about the attack on the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman last week. (AFP)

The UAE has said an inquiry into the May 12 attack pointed to a state actor, without naming a country. That inquiry said it was highly likely that limpet mines placed by trained divers were the cause.
“The dynamics of the two attacks are not clear, and the video that the US said demonstrated Iran’s role was also not clear,” a Western diplomat in the Gulf told Reuters.
“The European line is that de-escalation (from possible conflict) must be a priority. Abu Dhabi is very much in line with the EU views on this,” the diplomat said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that Washington would maintain its pressure campaign on Iran and continue to deter aggression in the region but does not want the confrontation with Tehran to escalate.

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The United States said on Monday it would send around 1,000 more troops to the Middle East, in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month that it said was prompted by Iranian threats.
A Western military source told Reuters that countries with military personnel based in the Gulf are waiting for the United States to lead efforts to enhance security in Gulf waters.
Frontline, which operates the Front Altair, said on Tuesday the vessel was in stable condition anchored off Fujairah and that it was working with third parties, including governmental officials, to determine the cause of the blast. It ruled out mechanical or human error.
“Until further information is received regarding the cause of the explosion and the security of this important shipping lane is secured, Frontline will exercise extreme caution when considering new contracts in the region,” it said in a statement.


Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2019
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.