Iran holds funeral for sailors killed in friendly fire incident

Relatives of 19 soldiers killed in Gulf of Oman naval exercise accident attend ceremony in Chahbahar.

A satellite image shows the Konarak vessel before it was damaged during the missile accident [Reuters]
A satellite image shows the Konarak vessel before it was damaged during the missile accident [Reuters]

Iran has held a funeral service for 19 sailors killed during a military training exercise when a support vessel was mistakenly hit by a missile from another Iranian ship.

Mourning relatives of the killed soldiers, along with military and government officials, attended Tuesday’s ceremony at a naval base in the southwestern port city of Chahbahar, according to state media.

The navy vessel was struck late on Sunday near the port of Jask about 1,270km (790 miles) southeast of the capital, Tehran, on the Gulf of Oman.

The missile hit the Konarak when the Hendijan-class support ship came close to a target during a drill, state television said. Fifteen sailors were also wounded in the accident.

Iran regularly holds exercises in the Gulf of Oman, which is close to the Strait of Hormuz, considered the world’s most important oil transit chokepoint.

The fatal test-firing echoed another accident caused by the country’s military in early January when it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s airport, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) admitted to the “catastrophic error”, saying it came as the county’s air defences were on high alert after firing a barrage of missiles at US targets in neighbouring Iraq in retaliation for the US assassination of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

The downing of the plane sent shockwaves across the country at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.

Relations between the two longtime foes have sharply deteriorated since 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear deal signed between world powers and Iran in 2015.

Washington then reimposed sanctions on Tehran, crippling its economy.

Iranian and US vessels routinely have tense encounters in the region.

Trump last month tweeted that he told the US navy “shoot down and destroy” Iranian gunboats that “harass” US ships. The IRGC promised a “crushing response” to any US military attacks in the Gulf.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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