Security firms say suspicious object on oil tanker off Iraq

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) — Sailors involved in transferring fuel oil from an Iraqi tanker in the Persian Gulf to another vessel owned by a shipping company traded in the United States (US) discovered a “suspicious object” they fear could be a mine, authorities said on Thursday.

The discovery comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Already, America has conducted B-52 bomber flyovers and sent a nuclear submarine into the Persian Gulf over what Trump officials describe as the possibility of an Iranian attack on the one-year anniversary of the US drones strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian general.

Two private security firms said sailors feared they found a limpet mine on the MT Pola, a Liberian-flagged tanker that was receiving assistance on Thursday in the Persian Gulf off Basra.

A limpet mine is a type of naval mine that attaches to the side of a ship, usually by a diver-member of special forces. It later explodes, and can significantly damage a vessel.

The two firms, Ambrey Intelligence and Dryad Global, said investigations are ongoing.

The United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, an organisation under Britain’s royal navy, said on its website that an “unknown object” had been attached to a ship’s hull in the vicinity of Iraq’s Khor Al-Zubair Port, without providing further information.