A Japanese-owned tanker attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week was damaged by a limpet mine resembling those used by Iran, the US military said Wednesday (June 19th).
Commander Sean Kido of US Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, said the mine used in the attack "is distinguishable and it is also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades", AFP reported.
The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, loaded with highly flammable methanol, came under attack last Thursday as it passed through the Gulf of Oman along with the Norwegian-operated Front Altair.
It was the second attack in a month on ships in the strategic shipping lane.
Kido told reporters in the UAE emirate of Fujairah that the US military had recovered "biometric information" of the assailants on the Kokuka Courageous including "hand and finger prints".
This information "can be used to build a criminal case", Kido said as the US Navy took journalists on a tour to the damaged ship currently docked some 14 kilometres off Fujairah.
The explosion on the Japanese-owned tanker left a metre-wide hole on its body.
Washington has already placed the blame for last week's attack on Tehran, releasing images and a grainy video it says shows Iranians on a patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine attached to the Kokuka Courageous.
Kido said there was an "ongoing joint and combined investigation with our regional partners into the attacks" on the two tankers.
Based on NAVCENT assessment, Kido said, the Kokuka Courageous was damaged by a limpet mine that had been attached to the hull of the vessel.
"The limpet mine was placed above the water, and it does not appear that the intention was to sink the vessel," he said.
Evidence collected from Kokuka Courageous and showed to reporters included a black magnet that was allegedly left by members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who removed the unexploded limpet mine.
The US navy also showed small fragments and composite material they recovered during the probe.