US intelligence proves ‘without question’ Iran behind tanker attacks

1 / 2
The US Navy says the Kokuka Courageous was damaged by a limpet mine that was similar to devices previously displayed by Tehran. (AP)
2 / 2
Brian Hook, pictured, said that Iranian vessels operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz on June 12 and 13 approached tankers Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous before they suffered explosions. (Screenshot/Congress)
Updated 20 June 2019

US intelligence proves ‘without question’ Iran behind tanker attacks

  • Hook: Iranian vessels operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz on June 12 and 13 approached tankers
  • Pentagon says new troops will include a Patriot missile battalion, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft and 'other deterrence capabilities.'

WASHINGTON: The US envoy to Iran Brian Hook said Wednesday US intelligence proves “without question” Iran was behind the attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Hook said that Iranian vessels operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz on June 12 and 13 approached tankers Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous before each ship suffered explosions on June 13. 

“Those who have seen the intelligence all come away without any question Iran is behind these attacks,” Hook told a conressional hearing on the Trump adminstration's Iran policy.

Hook added that the intelligence showed a senior Islamic Republican Guard Corps (IRGC) official confirmed that its personnel had “completed two actions.”

Earlier the US Navy displayed mine fragments and a magnet it said it had removed from one of two oil tankers, saying the mines bore a striking resemblance to Iranian ones.

Addressing Iran’s involvement in Yemen, committee member Joe Wilson referred to the Houthi attack on Abha airport last week, which injured 26 people. He asked Hook how the US planned to hold Iran accountable for such actions, given Tehran’s support for the Houthis.

Hook said the US supported the right of countries like Saudi Arabia “who are on the front lines of Iranian agression” in their right to defend themselves when attacked, especially by the Houthi rebels.

“Iran has spent hundreds of millions of dollars organizing, training and equipping the Houthis to fight at a level beyond which makes any normal sense and it has prolonged and intensified the conflict,” Hook said.

“Iran is playing a very long game in Yemen They would very much like to do in Yemen what they have been able to do in Lebanon and to use the Houthis in the same model that they have used Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Hook said there had been half a dozen attacks in the last six weeks and that this was why the US had beefed up its military presence in the region “to establish deterrents.”

The US on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the region because of the threat from Iran. The deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month. The US has also sent an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers.

The Pentagon Wednesday said the additional 1,000 troops would include a Patriot missile battalion, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft and "other deterrence capabilities".
"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region," a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

Also during the hearing, Hook said Iran was trying to “sow military roots in Syria,” and is attempting to destabilize Lebanon through its support for Hezbollah.


Libya airport hit by drone and rocket fire; 2 Haftar troops killed

Updated 15 September 2019

Libya airport hit by drone and rocket fire; 2 Haftar troops killed

  • LNA has been battling since early April to seize Tripoli from GNA forces

TRIPOLI: An airport near the Libyan capital was hit by a new round of rocket fire and airstrikes, the Tripoli-based government said on Saturday, two weeks after it was closed due to repeated attacks.

Separately, two commanders of the Libya National Army (LNA) were killed in a drone strike while trying to capture the capital Tripoli.

The drone strike took place in the town of Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli. The town has been the main base of the LNA since it lost Gharyan town south of Tripoli.

The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike. A brother of Kani was also killed.

Both armed groups had teamed up with the LNA whose forces control the east with the help of a parallel government and were key to the Tripoli campaign, analysts said.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) accused forces loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar of being behind Saturday’s attacks on Mitiga airport, but did not report any casualties.

BACKGROUND

The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike.

A drone airstrike hit the airport early on Saturday morning, followed by “Grad rockets launched by (pro-Haftar) militia,” the GNA said on Facebook.

The former military air base had been Tripoli’s sole functioning airport until a rocket attack on Sept. 1 wounded four civilians including three pilgrims returning from Makkah in Saudi Arabia, the latest in a string of similar incidents.

Authorities responded by diverting flights to Misrata, 200 km to the east, until further notice.

The LNA has been battling since early April to seize the capital from pro-GNA forces.

The two sides have since become embroiled in a stalemate in the capital’s southern outskirts.

Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they are targeting “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli.

The GNA’s Interior Ministry has identified at least 11 attacks on Mitiga since June 21, not including Saturday’s incident.

The Tripoli-based GNA called Saturday’s attack a “desperate attempt” at revenge for losses sustained the previous day.

Since April, the fighting around Tripoli has killed at least 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, while some 120,000 others have been displaced, according to the World Health Organization.