Iran's largest warship catches fire, sinks; reason behind blaze unknown
The largest warship in the Iranian Navy caught fire and later sank on Wednesday in the Gulf of Oman under unclear circumstances, semi-official news agencies reported. The Fars and Tasnim news agencies said efforts failed to save the support warship Kharg, named after the island that serves as the main oil terminal. The blaze began around 2:25 am and firefighters tried to contain it.
Pictures of sailors evacuating the vessel circulated on social media
The vessel sank near the Iranian port of Jask, some 1,270 kilometers southeast of Tehran on the Gulf of Oman. Photos of sailors wearing life jackets evacuating the vessel as a fire burned behind them circulated on social media. State TV and semiofficial agencies referred to the Kharg as a "training ship." Fars published a video of thick, black smoke rising from the ship.
US had earlier accused Iran of carrying out 'mysterious' explosions
Iranian officials offered no cause for the fire aboard the Kharg. However, it comes after a series of mysterious explosions that began in 2019 targeting ships in the Gulf of Oman. The US Navy later accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, timed explosives typically attached by divers to a vessel's hull. However, Iran denied targeting the vessels.
US Navy had provided footage as proof of Iran's involvement
Notably, US Navy footage showed Revolutionary Guard members removing one unexploded limpet mine from a vessel. The incidents came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
Israel allegedly struck an Iranian ship in April this year
In April, an Iranian ship called the MV Saviz believed to be a Guard base and anchored for years in the Red Sea off Yemen was targeted in an attack suspected to have been carried out by Israel. It escalated a years-long shadow war in Mideast waters between the two countries. The sinking of the Kharg marks the latest naval disaster for Iran.
Past incidents involving Iranian naval vessels
In 2020 during an Iranian military training exercise, a missile mistakenly struck a naval vessel near the port of Jask, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15. Also in 2018, an Iranian Navy destroyer sank in the Caspian Sea.
The Kharg entered the Iranian Navy in 1984
The Kharg served as one of the few vessels in the Iranian Navy capable of providing replenishment at sea for its other ships. It also can lift heavy cargo and serve as a launch point for helicopters. The warship, built in Britain and launched in 1977, entered the Iranian Navy in 1984 after lengthy negotiations that followed Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.