Nineteen sailors are dead and 15 others left wounded after an Iranian naval support vessel was reportedly hit and sunk by a surface-to-surface missile late Sunday in a “friendly fire” incident.
The sinking happened during an exercise in the Sea of Oman, near the Iranian port city of Jask, according to one Iran state media outlet that also confirmed the “martyrdom” of the dead sailors.
A local hospital admitted 12 sailors and treated another three with slight wounds, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.
Local journalists said the frigate Jamaran was testing a new anti-ship surface-to-surface missile which mistakenly locked onto and hit Konarak, a logistical support patrol boat.
The Konarak was launched in the Netherlands and purchased by Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The Hendijan-class vessel is equipped with four cruise missiles.
According to the Mehr news agency, Jamaran – operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – fired the missile prematurely and left Konarak no time to sail away from a floating target it had towed to a designated position.
Semi-official Iranian news agency Fars said one sailor was killed and several others injured in the incident.
Local reports said the missile struck the vessel accidentally and an investigation is now underway.
The Iran navy regularly holds exercises in the region, which is close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet, which monitors the region, did not immediately respond.
In January, the IRGC shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane near the Iranian capital, Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, as Breitbart news reported.
The incident came at a time of heightened tension with the US. Shortly before, Iran had launched a missile strike on an Iraqi base hosting U.S. forces after an American drone strike killed IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.