At least 19 Iranian sailors are dead after a friendly fire attack in which a frigate accidentally fired a missile at a support ship in the Gulf of Oman, according to media reports.
Support vessel Konarak was operating near the southern city of Jask, south of the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian frigate Jamaran was conducting a naval exercise nearby and shot a new anti-ship missile at the support ship, killing 19 and injuring more than a dozen more, according to global news reports.
“On Sunday evening… during naval exercises performed by a number of the naval force’s vessels in the waters of Jask and Chabahar, an accident happened involving the Konarak light support ship vessel, causing the martyrdom of a number of brave members of the naval forces,” reads an Iranian navy statement, according to BBC.
Konarak appears to have been laying targets for the naval exercise when the accident occurred. According to The Guardian, Iranian state television reported that Konarak was struck “after moving a practice target to its destination and not creating enough distance between itself and the target.”
“The still burning Konarak was towed into the nearby port of Chabahar, with photographs showing its superstructure including its command bridge completely destroyed. Pictures of the dead crew were also published, as well as messages of condolences from senior figures in the armed forces, including the Revolutionary Guards,” The Guardian’s report continues.
The incident occurred between two ships within Iran’s conventional Navy, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) or NEDAJA. This force is separate from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), the naval force of the country’s religious leaders that was involved in harassing U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships last month and has been involved in high-profile incidents such as the detention of merchant ship M/V Maersk Tigris in 2015.
Konarak was built for Iran in the Netherlands in 1988 as part of the 10-ship class of Hendijan-class support vessels. The ship has more recently been upgunned, according to Al Jazeera, which reported that Konarak was overhauled in 2018 and was now able to launch sea missiles. Iran Front Page (IFP) News also reported that the ship not only serves as a personnel- and cargo-carrier but can also lay mines and has been equipped with weapons such as cruise missiles in recent years.
This accident is the second major mishap for Iranian military forces this year, with Iran’s armed forces admitting it shot down a Ukraine-bound Boeing 737 as it was taking off from Imam Khomeini Airport near Tehran.