19 dead as Iran warship hit by 'friendly fire' in Gulf waters



Iran's IRGC troops rappel down a helicopter on a naval vessel during a military drill in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on February 25th, 2015. [Hamed Jafarnejad/FARS NEWS/AFP]

An Iranian warship was hit by a friendly fire missile during naval exercises, killing 19 sailors, state media and the army said Monday (May 11th), amid tensions with the US in Gulf waters.

The incident involving the Konarak vessel occurred on Sunday afternoon near Bandar-e Jask, off the southern coast of the Islamic republic, state television's website said.

"The vessel was hit after moving a practice target to its destination and not creating enough distance between itself and the target," said the channel.

Nineteen crewmen were killed and 15 injured in an "accident" during the exercises, the armed forces said, without elaborating.

The vessel had been towed ashore for "technical investigations", it said in a statement, calling on people to "avoid speculation" until further information is released.

Tasnim news agency said in an English-language tweet that the Konarak was hit by the missile fired by another Iranian warship.

The vessel had been hit by "'friendly fire' after Moudge-class frigate 'Jamaran' accidentally shot (it) with a missile during live firing exercise in Jask area of #PersianGulf waters".

The 15 injured were hospitalised in Sistan and Baluchistan, said Mohammad-Mehran Aminifard, head of the province's medical university.

Two of the sailors were in intensive care, he told the semi-official news agency ISNA.

Iran's army chief and foreign minister offered their condolences to the sailors' families in separate statements.

Airline disaster

The Konarak is a logistical support vessel made in the Netherlands and purchased by Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Weighing 447 tonnes and 47 metres long, the Hendijan-class vessel is equipped with four cruise missiles, according to state television.

It was not immediately clear how many crew members had been on board the warship at the time of the accident.

Iran and the US have traded barbs in the past year over a spate of incidents involving their forces in the Gulf waters.

Their latest high-seas confrontation came on April 15th, when the US claimed Iranian boats had "harassed" its navy ships in the waterway.

Iran's armed forces in January mistakenly shot down a Kiev-bound Boeing 737 passenger jet shortly after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard.

The military admitted to the catastrophic error, saying it came as Iran's air defences were on high alert after firing a barrage of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq.

Iran launched the missiles in retaliation for the US's killing of its top general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike days before that.

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