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Iran says 19 sailors killed, 15 wounded in missile "accident" at sea

Tehran, Iran — An Iranian missile fired during a live-fire training exercise in the Gulf of Oman struck a support vessel near its target, killing at least 19 sailors and injuring 15 others, Iran's army said Monday. The friendly fire incident happened Sunday near the port of Jask, some 790 miles southeast of Tehran, according to state TV. 

The missile struck the Konarak, a Hendijan-class support ship, that was taking part in the exercise.

An Iranian Navy Hendijan-class patrol vessel is seen in a file photo used widely by Iran's state media. A vessel of this class was struck in a friendly-fire accident on May 10, 2020, by a missile fired by another Iranian ship during a training exercise, according to Iran's army. Iranian state media

"On Sunday afternoon, during an exercise by a number of the navy's vessels in Jask and Chabahar waters, the Konarak light support vessel had an accident," the army said in the statement posted to its website on Monday. "The number of this accident's martyrs is 19 and 15 have also been injured," it added. 

The army said the stricken vessel had been towed back to shore, but it did not elaborate on the extent of the damage. 

State television earlier said the Konarak had been too close to an intended target. The Konarak had been putting targets out in the water for other ships to fire upon, it said.

Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that another ship accidentally fired the missile into the Konarak, according to the Reuters news agency. "Iran's Moudge-class frigate Jamaran accidentally shot the Konarak ship with a missile," Reuters quotes Tasnim as saying.

Iranian media said the Konarak had been overhauled in 2018 and was able to launch sea and anti-ship missiles. The 155-foot vessel was in service since 1988 and had capacity of 40 tons. It usually carries a crew of 20 sailors.

Gulf of Oman Google Maps

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 20% of the world's oil passes. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which monitors the region, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iranian media rarely report on mishaps during exercises, signaling the severity of the incident.

It comes amid months of heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed crushing sanctions on the country.

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