Nineteen sailors have died and 15 others were wounded after Iran struck its own ship in a naval 'accident' in the Gulf of Oman. State media said the vessel has sunk.
Nineteen sailors were killed and 15 others injured in the Gulf of Oman when an Iranian missile fired during a training exercise struck a support vessel near its target, Iranian state media reported Monday.
The missile struck the Konarak, a missile launching support warship that had been taking part in Sunday's exercise.
Iranian state television reported that the vessel had been putting targets out for other ships when it was hit, saying it had been too close to a target.
The strike was described as an accident.
State TV: Ship sank
One report said the vessel sunk after being hit.
"The vessel was hit after moving a practice target to its destination and not creating enough distance between itself and the target," state television said on its website.
Iran's army confirmed that one sailor had died and said that "investigations" had begun.
Iranian media rarely reports on military mishaps, signifying the severity of the incident.
"The circumstances of the incident are currently undergoing technical examinations," Iran's student News Agency ISNA said.
The incident took place near the port Jask, about 1,270 kilometers (790 miles) southeast of Tehran in the Gulf of Oman.
State media reported that the Dutch-made Konarak had been overhauled in 2018. The 47-meter (155-foot) vessel could carry up to 40 tons, and usually carried a crew of 20 soldiers.
Iran regularly holds military exercises in the area, which is closed off to the Strait of Hormuz. Some 20% of the world's oil passes through there.
The US Navy also monitors the area. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
US-Iran tensions still elevated
Tensions between Iran and the US have escalated since the US pulled out of a multinational agreement that would have dismantled Iran’s nuclear program and instead imposed economy-crippling sanctions on the country.
In January, Iran's armed forces mistakenly shot down a passenger airliner destined for Kiev as it was taking off from an airport in Tehran.
The military said the mistake occurred while Iran's air defenses were on high alert after launching a missile strike on US troops in Iraq.
The strike was carried out in retaliation for the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike a day prior.
kp/mm (AP, dpa)