US military offers condolences over Iran accident killing 19

DUBAI, UNITES ARAB EMIRATES (AP) — The United States (US) military offered condolences yesterday to Iran over a friendly fire incident in the Islamic Republic that killed 19 of its troops, identifying the weapon used in the incident as an anti-ship cruise missile.

Iranian authorities on Monday said a missile struck the Iranian navy vessel Konarak near the port of Jask, some 1,270 kilometres southeast of Tehran in the Gulf of Oman. Authorities said the Konarak was too close to a target and was accidentally hit last Sunday in an incident that also wounded 15 troops.

In a statement, a spokesman for the US Central Command Captain Bill Urban said the force offered “our sincere condolences to the Iranian people for the tragic loss of life”. Urban criticised the training for taking place so close to the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the gulf through which 20 per cent of all oil passes.

“While we are troubled that this mishap occurred in such close proximity to a high-traffic international shipping lane and at a time when most of the region’s focus is on the fight against COVID-19, the unnecessary loss of life is regrettable,” he said.

Tensions had been expected to rise after Iran’s government overcame the initial chaos that engulfed its response to the coronavirus pandemic. In April, the US accused Iran of conducting “dangerous and harassing” manoeuvers near American warships in the northern gulf.

US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers two years ago, launching a maximum pressure campaign against Iran that has repeatedly pushed the arch-rivals to the verge of conflict.

Analysts warned regional tensions will likely increase again.

Satellite photo shows the Konarak tied up at the port in Konarak, Iran. PHOTO: AP