DUBAI (AFP) – An explosion that damaged a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week was a “terrorist attack,” the coastguard in the United Arab Emirates, where the ship docked for repairs, said on Friday.
“The investigation and examination conducted by special teams have shown the tanker was attacked with explosives, prepared using traditional methods, which were loaded on a boat that approached the ship,” a UAE coastguard spokesman said on the official WAM news agency.
“UAE explosives experts… found a dent on the starboard side above the water line and remains of homemade explosives on the hull,” when they inspected the ship off the UAE port of Fujairah, the official said.
“Probably the tanker had encountered a terrorist attack from a boat loaded with explosives,” he was quoted as saying on the agency’s English-language website.
In Tokyo, Mitsui OSK said the company could not confirm the reports and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said the government was aware of the report but was yet to confirm its details.
Militant jihadists claimed Tuesday that a suicide bomber blew himself up on the ship owned by Mitsui OSK Lines, which reported one of its tankers, the M Star, appeared to have been hit by a blast on July 28 in international waters between Iran and Oman.
US monitoring group SITE Intelligence 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.”
Mitsui OSK Lines, which maintained the damage was caused by an attack despite reports that it was caused by a freak wave, had said crew members saw a flash and heard an explosion shortly after midnight local time on July 28.
One crewman was slightly wounded in the blast, which caused minor damage to the ship, including an indentation several metres (yards) across in the hull, according to pictures published by WAM.
The Japan-bound vessel — crewed by 16 Filipinos and 15 Indians — was carrying 270,000 tonnes of crude oil from the United Arab Emirates but did not suffer a spill.
The ship arrived under its own steam at Fujairah for repairs, and an investigation into the incident was launched.
It left the port on Friday after repairs were completed, the UAE coastguard official said.
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.
The US Navy Fifth Fleet, based in the Gulf state of Bahrain, said the vital shipping route, through which passes an estimated 40 percent of oil exports, remained open on the day of the explosion.