Iran strikes friendly missiles during exercise kills 19 sailors

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TEHERAN, IRAN –
An Iranian missile fired during a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman hit a support ship near its target, killing 19 Iranian sailors and injuring 15, Iranian military and state media said on Monday. amid increased tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The statement significantly increased the number of deaths in the Sunday incident compared to what had been reported a few hours earlier, when Iranian official media said at least one sailor had been killed.

The Konarak, a Hendijan-class support ship, which participated in the exercise, was too close to a target during an exercise on Sunday when the incident occurred, reports said. The ship had set targets for other ships. Media reports said the missile accidentally hit the ship.

The friendly fire occurred near the port of Jask, about 1,270 kilometers (790 miles) southeast of Tehran in the Gulf of Oman, state television said.

A local hospital admitted 12 sailors and treated three others with minor injuries, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iranian media has reported that the Konarak was overhauled in 2018 and that it was able to launch sea and anti-ship missiles. The 47-meter (155-foot) ship, made in the Netherlands, had been in service since 1988 and had a capacity of 40 tonnes. It generally carries a crew of 20 sailors.

Iran towed the Konarak to a nearby naval base after the strike. A photo released by the Iranian military showed burn marks and some damage to the ship, although the military did not immediately provide detailed photographs of the missile impact site.

Iran regularly organizes exercises in the region, which is close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, which monitors the area, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iranian media rarely report incidents during the country’s military exercises, signaling the severity of the incident. It also comes amid months of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States since President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed overwhelming sanctions on country.

This is the second serious incident involving a missile missed by the Iranian armed forces this year. In January, after attacking US forces in Iraq with ballistic missiles, the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guards accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 people on board.

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report

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