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Iran Holds Funeral For Victims Of Naval Accident, No Explanation About Cause

Iran holds funeral for 19 sailors killed in "friendly fire" during a naval excercise in the Gulf of Oman on May 11. May 12, 2020
Iran holds funeral for 19 sailors killed in "friendly fire" during a naval excercise in the Gulf of Oman on May 11. May 12, 2020

Iran on Tuesday buried the victims of an apparent friendly-fire incident during a naval exercise that killed nineteen sailors and wounded 15 others, without offering any explanations about the cause of the accident.

Admiral Amir Sayyari, Deputy Coordinating Commander of Iran's regular army and Admiral Amir Khanzadi, Commander of the Army's Naval Force, participated in the funeral which was held at the Third Naval District of Konark Port on Tuesday morning.

The vessel was hit by a missile fired during naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman on Sunday. So far the only statement issued by the Public Relations Department of the Naval Force of the Army has only stated that the vessel "had an accident" and 19 sailors "were martyred". The statement advises "to avoid any speculation about the accident before thorough investigations by the experts present at the scene of the accident".

Several high-ranking officials including President Hassan Rouhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif and top military commanders have issued statements to offer their condolences to the Supreme Leader, the people of Iran and the families of the victims. None of the messages mentions friendly fire or any other reference to the cause of the accident.

Calling the accident "unacceptable", Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh, a member of the Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee on Monday issued a parliamentary "notice" to president Rouhani and called for investigation of its cause.

Some Iranian news agencies and websites have speculated that the accident was caused by a faulty missile homing device. According to unconfirmed reports Jamaran warship fired a cruise missile at Konarak by mistake during the naval exercise. The smaller vessel which has been towed to the harbor has sustained heavy damage.

According to Reed Foster, a senior analyst at Jane's, the Konarak may have been targeted with a Noor anti-ship missile that has long been a part of Iran's anti-ship arsenal.

The Dutch-made, 47-meter Konarak has been in service since 1988. The vessel is designed for a crew of 20 but there were 34 on board it when the accident happened.

Iran regularly holds exercises in the region, which is close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which one-fifth of the world’s oil passes.