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One of Iran’s largest warships caught fire and sank Wednesday in the Gulf of Oman during a “training mission” — as a series of mysterious explosions have targeted commercial vessels in the sensitive region since 2019.
The British-built Kharg, which measured more than 650 feet long, erupted into flames Tuesday off the strategic port of Jask, Reuters reported.
The ship was in “domestic waters” during “a training mission,” said the navy’s head of public relations, Behzad Jahanian, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
No further details were given and Jahanian said the cause of the blaze was “still not clear.”
After an unsuccessful rescue mission, the Kharg sank at about 8:30 a.m. local time Wednesday — but all 400 cadets and crew disembarked safely, with 20 suffering light injuries or burns.
State TV and semi-official news agencies referred to the sunken vessel as a “training ship.” It was one of a few Iranian navy ships capable of providing replenishment at sea for other ships.
It sank some 790 miles southeast of Tehran near the Strait of Hormuz — the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.
Images circulated on Iranian social media of sailors wearing life jackets evacuating the doomed ship as a fire burned behind them. Iranian news agency Fars published video of thick, black smoke rising early Wednesday.
The incident comes after a series of mysterious explosions began in 2019 targeting commercial ships in the Gulf of Oman.
The US Navy has previously accused the Islamic Republic of targeting the ships with limpet mines — timed explosives typically attached by divers to a vessel’s hull.
Tehran has denied the accusation, but US Navy footage has shown Revolutionary Guard members removing one unexploded limpet mine from a vessel.
The attacks came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Negotiations on saving the accord are ongoing in Vienna.
Meanwhile, in April, the Iranian ship MV Saviz, believed to be a Guard base, was targeted in an attack suspected to have been carried out by Israel.
The Israeli prime minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment by the Associated Press on Wednesday about the Kharg.
It was ordered from Britain in 1976 when the pro-Western shah was still in power, but was not delivered until 1984 after years of wrangling between the UK and the government that took power after the Islamic revolution of 1979, according to AFP.
Jeremy Binnie of open-source defense intelligence provider Janes said the Kharg was “not the IRIN’s largest vessel any more after they commissioned Makran, a converted oil tanker, in January.”
With Post wires
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