Britain’s Hunt says Iran ‘almost certainly’ behind Gulf tanker attacks
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Britain’s Hunt says Iran ‘almost certainly’ behind Gulf tanker attacks

Independent UK assessment blames Islamic Revolutionary Guard, saying ‘no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible’

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt launches his leadership campaign for the Conservative Party in London, Monday June 10, 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May stepped down Friday as Conservative Party leader after failing to secure Parliament's backing for her European Union withdrawal deal. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt launches his leadership campaign for the Conservative Party in London, Monday June 10, 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May stepped down Friday as Conservative Party leader after failing to secure Parliament's backing for her European Union withdrawal deal. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON — An independent assessment by Britain has concluded that Iran was “almost certainly” responsible for the latest Gulf tanker attacks, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Friday.

“Our own assessment leads us to conclude that responsibility for the attacks almost certainly lies with Iran. These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilizing Iranian behavior and pose a serious danger to the region,” Hunt said in a statement.

The foreign office statement pinned the blame for Thursday’s attack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard — a vast and powerful branch of the Iranian military.

“No other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible,” the foreign office statement said.

Hunt called on Iran to “cease all forms of destabilizing activity” and said Britain was working with other countries to try to find a diplomatic solution to the escalating standoff between Tehran and Washington.

The US military on Friday released a video it said shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting the Islamic Republic sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene.

This June 13, 2019, image released by the US military’s Central Command, shows damage and a suspected mine on the Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman near the coast of Iran. (U.S. Central Command via AP)

Iran denies being involved, accusing the US instead of waging an “Iranophobic campaign” against it.

While Iran has denied being involved in the attack, Tehran previously used mines against oil tankers in 1987 and 1988 in the “Tanker War,” when the US Navy escorted ships through the region.

The black-and-white footage, as well as still photographs released by the US military’s Central Command on Friday, appeared to show the limpet mine on the Kokuka Courageous.

The suspected attacks occurred at dawn Thursday about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the southern coast of Iran. The Front Altair, loaded with the flammable hydrocarbon mixture naphtha from the United Arab Emirates, radioed for help as it caught fire. A short time later, the Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also called for help.

The US Navy sent a destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, to assist, said Cmdr. Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman. He described the ships as being hit in a “reported attack,” without elaborating.

Thursday’s attack resembled that of an attack in May targeting four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. US officials similarly accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, which are magnetic and attach to the hulls of a ship. The mines disable, but don’t sink, a vessel.

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