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Friendly Fire Incident Kills 19 In Iranian Navy Drill


A handout photo made available by Iranian authorities shows the damaged Konarak warship in Jask, Iran. on May 11.

The Iranian Navy says one of its own missiles has struck a support ship in a friendly fire incident during a training exercise in the Sea of Oman, killing 19 and injuring another 15.

The navy said in a statement on May 11 that the incident involving a Konarak light vessel occurred a day earlier near the Iranian port city of Jask, off the southern coast of the Islamic republic.

The death toll was a sharp revision from what was reported just hours earlier, when state media said at least one sailor was killed.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency reported that the Konarak vessel, a Hendijan-class support ship, has been transferred to a pier in the region.

It was not clear how many crew members were on board the vessel at the time of the accident.

Earlier, state-controlled television said in a report on its website that the Konarak vessel was hit after moving a practice target to its destination and not creating enough distance between itself and the target.

Some reports said the Konarak had been hit in the tail by a missile fired from the Jamaran frigate.

The navy said that, until a "thorough" investigation into the incident had been conducted, "speculation" should be avoided.

The incident follows the January downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which admitted to the "unintentional" shooting down of the plane, saying it came as Iran's air defenses were on high alert after the firing of missiles at U.S. troops based in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of IRGC top general, Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a drone strike days earlier.

The May 10 friendly fire incident comes amid tensions between Tehran and Washington, including in the Persian Gulf where U.S. authorities have accused Iranian vessels of "dangerous and harassing" approaches by U.S. ships.

"This really showed that the situation with Iran is still dangerous because accidents and miscalculations can happen," Fabian Hinz, an expert on Iran’s military at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

"It doesn’t give confidence about the stability of the Persian Gulf," Hinz added.

On April 22, U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly tweeted that he had instructed the U.S. Navy "to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea."

Tensions have heightened between the two sides following Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal and the reimposition of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

With reporting by ISNA, Tasnim, Reuters, and The New York Times