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US Navy finds mine that possibly points to Iran in tanker attack

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The US is accusing Iran of carrying out attacks on two tankers just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway through which more than 30% of the world’s seaborne crude oil passes, and the US Navy has reportedly discovered an unexploded mine that may very well be evidence of Iran’s culpability in Thursday’s attacks.

The USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed to the Middle East, spotted a limpet mine on the side of one of the two tankers hit Thursday, CNN reported, citing a US defense official. Another defense official confirmed the discovery to Fox News, telling reporters that “it’s highly likely Iran is responsible.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday afternoon that Iran was responsible for the attacks.

He did not provide specific evidence for the accusations, other than to say that US conclusions are “based on the level of expertise for the execution, and recent attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

The limpet mine spotted by the US Navy was reportedly discovered on the Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers targeted. Twenty-one sailors rescued from the damaged ship are currently aboard the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that was operating nearby and was called into assist.

A limpet mine is an explosive with detonator that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets, and Iranian forces are believed to have used these weapons in an attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May. While the US has blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The UAE determined that an unnamed “state actor” was behind the tanker attacks and concluded that “it was highly likely that limpet mines were deployed.”

There has been some debate about who was behind the latest attacks, with one official telling ABC News that “we’re not pointing to Iran, but we’re not ruling anything out at this time.” Another official asked the media outlet rhetorically, “Who else could it be?”

Iran used mines heavily during the Tanker Wars in the late 1980s.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who may have been briefed on the situation, was quick to pin the blame on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, telling reporters: “I saw some press accounts today sort of saying it’s not clear who did it. Well, it wasn’t the Belgians. It wasn’t the Swiss. I mean, it was them. They’re the ones that did it. We’ve been warning about it.”

In early May, the US began deploying military assets to the Middle East as a deterrence force in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was planning attacks on US interests. The US has so far sent a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a missile defense battery, and a number of other capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility.

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