The Latest: US Navy: Tanker attack mine similar to Iranian


BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on developments in the Persian Gulf region amid rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

Iraqi officials say two rockets have landed on oil company sites in Iraq’s southern Basra province, one landing near the facilities of a Turkish company just hours after a similar attack on an Exxon Mobil Corp. site that injured three local workers, one seriously.

There were no immediate reports of damage at the service company in the compound in Burjesia. The company is affiliated with British Petroleum.

The security and oil officials said the rockets fired were Katyushas. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

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Iraqi officials said they are investigating the source of the attack.

The first rocket landed to the south, near the facilities of the Iraqi Drilling Company, not far from the site of energy giant Exxon Mobil. Some 40 staff of Exxon Mobil were later evacuated.

— Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad


4:20 p.m.

An Iraqi intelligence officer says 40 workers for the energy giant Exxon Mobil Corp. have been evacuated from an oil-drilling site in southern Iraq after they came under rocket fire.

The officer tells The Associated Press that security reinforcements have been deployed to the site after a rocket hit before dawn Wednesday near the location of the Iraqi workers, wounding three. Iraqi officials said a Katyusha rocket hit the site in southern Basra province, striking a camp housing workers for Exxon Mobil and other foreign companies.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief the press.

The official said that immediately after the attack, 16 Exxon Mobil workers were evacuated. Another 24 workers were later evacuated.

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— Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad


3:10 p.m.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says the risk of war in the Persian Gulf region is not ruled out amid rising tensions between Iran and the United States.

Mass spoke on Wednesday with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris. Mass says “the situation is serious” and “everything must be done” to avoid further escalation of the tensions in the region.

He and Le Drian said they have talks with all parties involved, including Iran and the U.S. Le Drian said France has concerns about Iran authorities’ actions and comments.

Le Drian also said “there is little time” to launch diplomatic initiatives that would ease tensions.

The two did not comment on who they think was behind the recent attacks on oil tankers.


2:30 p.m.

Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami dismissed allegations about his country’s involvement in last week’s attack on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, describing them as an unfair accusation meant to tarnish Iran’s image.

The semi-official Fars news agency on Wednesday quoted the minister as saying that “the accusation against Iran is totally a lie and I dismiss it firmly.”

Hatami extolled Iranian military, saying it has “played a significant role in the establishment of security in the region and in international waterways.”

He responded to questions about footage released by the U.S. purporting to show Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the stricken tankers, saying “the date and the location shown in the footage have not been authenticated.”

The minister also added that Iranian vessels carried out a rescue operation when they arrived at the location of the tankers. He says the Americans “can show any footage … but it cannot be used as evidence.”


2:05 p.m.

A U.S. Navy explosives expert says the limpet mine used on a Japanese-owned oil tanker last week “bears a striking resemblance” to similar Iranian mines. Iran has denied being involved in the attack.

Cmdr. Sean Kido of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet also said on Wednesday that damage done to tanker Kokuka Courageous was “not consistent with an external flying object hitting the ship.”

That contradicts the ship’s owner, which said eyewitnesses aboard saw “flying objects” before the June 13 attack in the Gulf of Oman.

Kido added that Navy investigators have recovered fingerprints and a hand print from the side of the ship after the attack.

Kido made the comment to journalists gathered at the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet base near Fujairah, the United Arab Emirates. Reporters also saw what officials described as evidence recovered from the ship.


12:30 p.m.

Israel is holding its largest military drill in years, with thousands of troops from the army, navy and air force simulating a future war with Lebanese Hezbollah militants.

The military says it’s wrapping up the four-day exercise on Wednesday. The drill focused on the immersion off all military branches against threats on Israel from the north. It includes the first deployment of F-35 stealth fighter jet planes in such a drill.

The exercise was planned long in advance but comes amid growing tensions in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the United States.

Israeli officials fear Iran may try to mobilize proxies like Hezbollah against it, as part of the conflict.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the drill and warned Israel’s enemies: “Don’t test us.”


12:20 p.m.

Kuwait’s emir has arrived in Iraq for a rare official visit to the neighboring country amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf between Washington and Tehran.

Iraq’s President Barham Saleh received Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah at Baghdad’s airport on Wednesday.

Kuwait news agency KUNA said the visit, the first since 2012, will focus on regional developments in the wake of attacks on oil tankers last week near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Washington, which has accused Iran of carrying out the attacks on the oil tankers, has dispatched warships and bombers to the region and is sending 1,000 more troops to the Mideast. Iran denies it is behind the attacks.


10:05 a.m.

Iraqi officials say a rocket hit an oil-drilling site in southern Basra province, striking a camp housing energy giant Exxon Mobil and wounding three local workers, one seriously.

Security official Mahdi Raykan says a Katyusha rocket landed early Wednesday in the Zubair and Rumeila oil fields camp, operated by the Iraqi Drilling company, where Exxon Mobil has workers’ caravans.

Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In May, it evacuated staff from the West Qurna 1 oil field in Basra province.

As tensions escalate between Iran and the U.S., there’re concerns Iraq could once again get caught in the middle. The country hosts more than 5,000 U.S. troops, and is home to powerful Iranian-backed militias, some of whom want those U.S. forces to leave.

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