Yutaka Katada, the president of the Japanese company operating the Kokuka Courageous tanker, which was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman damaging its hull, has refuted the US version of events in comments to the Japanese media, saying that the ship's crew saw a flying object ahead of the blast.
"I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship. A mine doesn’t damage a ship above sea level. We aren’t sure exactly what hit, but it was something flying towards the ship", Katada said.
The testimonies of the Kokuka Courageous crew, cited by Katada, come as a blow to US claims that Iran was responsible for the incident - accusations allegedly supported by a video. The footage, released by CENTCOM, purportedly shows how an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boat approached one of the ships and removed an unexploded mine from its hull.
Iran has denied involvement in the "attack" on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, slamming the US and its allies for trying to shift the blame onto the Islamic Republic. What is more, Iranian vessels have evacuated 44 crew members from the ships and taken them to the port of Jask until the tankers are determined to be safe.
The incident follows another episode in May, when four tankers were damaged near a UAE port allegedly as a result of explosions. While Abu Dhabi dubbed the incident an "act of sabotage", the US has outright accused Iran of being behind it. Tehran has denied the accusations.