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The Navy reportedly found a smoking gun as the US blamed Iran for the devastating tanker attack

Business Insider | Jun 14, 2019, 12.03AM IST

oil tanker gulf of oman fire

AP Photo/ISNA)

The Front Altair oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, June 13, 2019.

  • The US Navy discovered an unexploded limpet mine attached to one of the two tankers attacked Thursday.
  • The mine, which was discovered by the USS Bainbridge, is a potential smoking gun, because it likely points to Iran's invovlement in the attack on the commercial vessels.
  • Not only is Iranian forces suspected of using limpet mines in the attack on four tankers last month, but Iran also used mines in the Tanker Wars in the 1980s.
  • The US pinned the blame for the attack on Iran Thursday afternoon.
  • Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.

The US is accusing Iran of attacks on two tankers just outside the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than 30 percent of the world's seaborne crude oil passes, and a US destroyer reportedly discovered an unexploded mine that could point to Iran's culpability in Thursday's attacks.

The USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed to the Middle East, spotted the limpet mine on the side of one of the two tankers hit Thursday, CNN reported, citing a US defense official. Another defense official confirmed the discovery to Fox News, telling reporters that "it's highly likely Iran is responsible."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday afternoon that Iran was responsible for the attacks.

The mine was reportedly discovered on the Panamanian-flagged Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers targeted. Twenty-one sailors rescued from the damaged ship are currently aboard the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that was operating nearby and was called into assist.

A limpet mine is an explosive that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets, and Iranian forces are believed to have used these weapons in an attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May. While the US has blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The UAE determined that an unnamed "state actor" was behind the tanker attacks and concluded that "it was highly likely that limpet mines were deployed."

There has been some debate about who was behind the latest attacks, with one official telling ABC News that "we're not pointing to Iran, but we're not ruling anything out at this time." Another official asked the media outlet rhetorically, "Who else could it be?"

Iran used mines heavily during the Tanker Wars in the 1980s.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who may have been briefed on the situation, was quick to pin the blame on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, telling reporters: "I saw some press accounts today sort of saying it's not clear who did it. Well, it wasn't the Belgians. It wasn't the Swiss. I mean, it was them. They're the ones that did it. We've been warning about it."

In early May, the US began deploying military assets to the Middle East as a deterrence force in response to intelligence indicating that Iran and its proxy forces were planning attacks on US interests. The US has so far sent a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a missile defense battery, and a number of other capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility.

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