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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon released declassified images Monday showing the sustained damage from one of the oil tankers attacked last week and maintained that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy was responsible.
The Trump administration blamed Iran for the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which is near Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route through which much of the world's oil passes.
The Pentagon said that the crew of one of the tankers, the Japanese Kokuka Courageous, found an unexploded limpet mine on its hull following an initial explosion. The crew abandoned ship and was rescued by the U.S. Navy's USS Bainbridge.
"Later that day, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Gashti Class patrol boat approached Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded by a U.S. Navy MH-60 helicopter removing the unexploded limpet mine from Kokuka Courgeous," the Pentagon said in a statement Monday.
"Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine."
Last week, the Japanese oil tanker owner said the vessel was struck by a projectile and not by a mine, which is what U.S. officials assessed as the source of the blast.
"We received reports that something flew towards the ship," Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, said at a press conference Friday. "I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship," he said, adding that a projectile landed above the waterline.
A U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, reiterated that the characteristics of the blast fit the profile of a limpet mine and not that of a torpedo.
"From a torpedo perspective, I would say no, because torpedos are designed to strike below the water and the hole that we do see is above the waterline," the Navy official said Monday.
Another U.S. Navy official explained that the profile of the attack showed that the intent was not to sink the Kokuka Courageous.
"Generally to get water intrusion you want to blow a hole below the waterline" said the official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official added that if the blast occurred lower on the vessel it would be a tell-tale sign that the attackers were looking to sink the ship.