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Iraq explosives experts working to defuse mine on oil tanker

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Iraqi explosives consultants have been working to defuse a big mine found on an oil tanker within the Persian Gulf and evacuate its crew, authorities mentioned Friday.

The assertion got here a day after two personal safety companies mentioned sailors feared they’d discovered a limpet mine on the MT Pola, a Liberian-flagged tanker within the waters off the Iraqi port of Basra. A limpet mine is a sort of naval mine that attaches to the facet of a ship, often by a diver-member of particular forces. It later explodes, and may considerably injury a vessel.

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The Iraqi assertion mentioned the mine had been hooked up to a tanker rented from Iraq’s Oil Advertising and marketing Firm SOMO that was refuelling one other vessel. Iraq’s naval forces have been making “an incredible effort to perform the mission” safely, mentioned Iraq’s Safety Media Cell, which is affiliated with the nation’s safety forces.

An aerial photograph reveals oil tankers load crude oil at Iraq’s Al-Basra Offshore Terminal in Basra, Iraq on Sunday, December 27, 2020. (AP)

It was the primary official Iraqi affirmation {that a} mine was found on an Iraqi tanker transferring gas within the Persian Gulf to a different vessel. It didn’t establish both vessels or present extra particulars.

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The invention got here amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. within the waning days of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Already, America has performed B-52 bomber flyovers and despatched a nuclear submarine into the Persian Gulf over what Trump officers describe as the potential for an Iranian assault on the one-year anniversary of the US drones strike in Baghdad that killed a prime Iranian normal and a prime Iraqi militia chief.

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Iraq is marking the anniversary with a collection of occasions this week.

On Thursday, the UK Marine Commerce Operations, an organisation beneath Britain’s royal navy, mentioned on its web site that an “unknown object” had been hooked up to a ship’s hull within the neighborhood of Iraq’s Khor Al-Zubair Port, with out offering additional info.

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Map locates tanker. (Related Press)

The Pola serves as floating gas oil storage of Iraq’s State Organisation of Advertising and marketing of Oil, mentioned Sudharsan Sarathy, a senior oil analyst on the data-analysis agency Refinitiv. Smaller vessels carry the gas oil to the ship, which then conducts ship-to-ship transfers within the Persian Gulf to shoppers.

Sarathy mentioned the Pola was conducting a ship-to-ship switch with the MT Nordic Freedom, a Bermuda-flagged tanker.

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Friday’s assertion mentioned an explosives-handling workforce from Iraq’s Inside Ministry was airlifted to the scene after a “overseas physique” was noticed hooked up to one of many ships within the ready space in Iraq’s worldwide waters, 28 nautical miles from Iraqi oil ports.

Regardless of excessive waves, the vessel receiving the gas was evacuated whereas the Iraqi workforce was nonetheless engaged on neutralising the mine and evacuating the refuelling ship, it mentioned.

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In 2019, the US blamed Iran for a collection of limpet mine assaults on oil tankers close to the Strait of Hormuz, the slim mouth of the Persian Gulf by way of which 20 per cent of all of the world’s oil passes. Iran denies being concerned.

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