Front Altair crew leave Iran for Dubai

TEHRAN, Jun. 16 (MNA) – Crew members from the Norwegian-owned oil tanker MT Front Altair, who were rescued by Iranian forces, landed in Dubai on Saturday night.

MT Front Altair crew, comprised of 11 Russians, 11 Filipinos and one Georgian, were on board an Iran Air flight from Bandar Abbas, Iran, landed in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

Two large tankers were hit by explosions in the Sea of Oman — also called the Gulf of Oman — on Thursday. The tankers were identified as the Marshal Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous.

Shortly after the two vessels sent out distress signals, an Iranian rescue ship rushed to their help and picked up all of the crew, taking them to the port city of Jask.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quickly blamed Iran. President Donald Trump did the same on Friday. US military also released video footage to blame Iran for the attacks on the oil tankers; however, the claim has been disputed even by Washington's allies and Western analysts.

The US claimed the ships hit a mine planted by Iran.

The claim, however, was soon rejected by the Japanese ship's operator, whose president said on Friday its sailors on board the Kokuka Courageous saw "flying objects" just before the attack, suggesting the tanker wasn't damaged by mines.

"The crew told us something came flying at the ship, and they found a hole," President Yutaka Katada of Kokuka Sangyo told a press conference in Tokyo. "Then some crew witnessed the second shot."

Iran has strongly dismissed the US’ claims, saying the suspicious nature of the recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman is "not funny or ridiculous but alarming."

Less than a day after the US Central Command (CENTCOM) released the video late Thursday purportedly showing "Iranian sailors" removing a mine from the Japanese-owned Kokura Courageous' hull earlier in the day, European governments — except for Britain — have so far refused to accept the US' narrative that Tehran was to blame for the "suspicious" attacks.

They are reluctant to accept the White House’s claims at face value and do not want to provide Washington with any pretext for war.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Friday the video is not sufficient to prove the US claim that Iran was behind the attacks.

"The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me," Maas, who was in Iran earlier this week on an official two-day visit, told reporters in Oslo.

Nathalie Tocci, a senior adviser to European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also rejected the US allegations, saying, “Before we blame someone, we need credible evidence.”

Iranians are deeply rational actors, she said. And for Iran to have attacked a Japanese ship when the Japanese prime minister was in Tehran “is not an especially rational thing to do.”

MNA/IRN83355287

News Code 146500

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