TOKYO, (AFP) – Militant jihadists have claimed that a suicide bomber blew himself up on a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week, the US monitoring group SITE said.
Mitsui OSK Lines had previously reported that one of its tankers, the M Star, appeared to have been hit by an explosion July 28 in the waterway between Iran and Oman.
SITE said the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam claimed in a message on jihadist websites that it had placed a suicide bomber on the tanker, identifying him as Ayyub al-Taishan.
It said the attack was carried out in the name of Omar Abdul Rahman, the Egyptian “Blind Sheikh” imprisoned in the United States for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.
The attack sought “to weaken the infidel global order which is thrust unto Muslim lands and which loots its resources,” the brigade said, according to SITE.
“We delayed the publication of the statement until our heroes returned safely to their bases.”
Japan said Wednesday it was investigating the facts about the statement.
“We know that a criminal declaration was uploaded on an Internet site, but at this point, it’s unclear whether it is true or not,” the foreign ministry’s press secretary Kazuo Kodama told reporters.
“The tanker is docked at a port in the United Arab Emirates. We will continue our investigation into the case,” Kodama said without elaborating.
Mitsui OSK Lines’ spokeswoman said: “We are investigating the facts about the case, but we don’t have fresh information in Tokyo.”
The shipping company had said that crew members saw a flash and heard an explosion in the incident shortly after midnight local time a week ago.
One crewman was slightly injured in the explosion, which caused minor damage to the ship, including an indentation several meters across in the hull, according to pictures published by state-run UAE news agency WAM.
Mitsui had dismissed reports it might have been hit by a freak wave.
The Japan-bound vessel — crewed by 16 Filipinos and 15 Indians — was carrying 270,000 tonnes of crude oil but did not suffer a spill.
One of the crew saw a flash on the horizon, while several other sailors heard an explosion, Mitsui safety management executive Masahiko Hibino has told journalists, adding that the weather was fine and there were no reports of high waves in the region.
The ship arrived under its own steam in United Arab Emirates for repairs, and an investigation into the incident was launched.
The Strait of Hormuz, less than 100 kilometres (60 miles) across at its widest point, separates Oman from Iran and is the gateway into the oil-rich Gulf.
Japan, the world’s second-biggest economy, sources some 90 percent of its oil from the Middle East, much of it from the Gulf.