Iranian navy says 19 sailors killed in ‘friendly fire’ incident

An Iranian warship accidentally struck another with a missile during an exercise, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15 others, the Iranian navy announced on Monday.

The incident occurred during training in the Gulf of Oman, a sensitive waterway that connects to the Strait of Hormuz through which about one-fifth of the world’s oil passes. He regularly exercises in the region.

The Jamaran frigate fired on a training target released by a support ship, the Konarak. However, the support vessel stayed too close to the target and was hit, said state broadcaster IRIB.

“The incident occurred in the perimeter of the southern port of Iran Bandar-e Jask, in the Gulf of Oman, during the exercises of the Iranian Navy on Sunday afternoon, in which 19 sailors were killed and 15 others injured, “national television said, citing the navy.

The Fars news agency quoted an unidentified military official as denying reports from Iranian media that the Konarak had sunk. The navy statement said investigations are underway into the cause of the incident, the student news agency ISNA said.

IRIB said the Konarak, made in the Netherlands, which was purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, was overhauled in 2018 and was equipped with four cruise missiles.

The incident occurred at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States since 2018, when the United States withdrew from a nuclear deal between the major powers and Iran, and Washington has re-imposed sanctions against Tehran.

Animosity intensified in early January when an American drone strike in Baghdad killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, who was rebuked on January 9 by missile fire at US military bases in Iraq. Later that day, the Iranian armed forces shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing the 176 people on board, which the army later admitted to be a mistake.