Middle east

‘Mothership’ or ‘Anti-Piracy’ Cargo Vessel: Attack on Iranian Ship in the Red Sea Raises Questions

Earlier reports stated that an Iranian cargo ship, the Saviz, had been attacked in the Red Sea by a missile or a mine, with Israel allegedly notifying the United States that its forces had carried out the strike as “retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels”, according to The New York Times.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that an Iranian vessel, the MV Saviz, has been targeted in the Red Sea.

“The explosion occurred on Tuesday morning near the Djibouti coast and caused minor damage with no casualties. The vessel was a civilian ship stationed there to secure the region against pirates,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Wednesday, adding that the issue was “under investigation”.

This comes after Iranian state television reported on Wednesday, citing foreign media, that an Iranian general cargo ship – the Saviz – had possibly been struck by a missile.

A defence correspondent for Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported, citing sources, that the hull of the freighter, which US, Israeli, and Saudi officials, as well as the media, have previously claimed may be a covert Revolutionary Guard forward base or intelligence-gathering vessel, was damaged as a result of the explosion of limpet mines.

​Anonymous US sources were cited by The New York Times as claiming Israel notified the United States that its forces had attacked an Iranian vessel, the Saviz, in the Red Sea.

The strike had purportedly come in “retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels”, with the Saviz “damaged below the water line”, according to NYT.

The US military’s Central Command also issued a statement, saying it was “aware of media reporting of an incident involving the Saviz in the Red Sea”.

“We can confirm that no US forces were involved in the incident. We have no additional information to provide,” reads the statement, reported by AP.

Anonymous US officials speaking to Reuters denied any role in the incident.

Tel Aviv has been blamed for the explosion in a spate of Telegram social media channels run by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, while there has been no official comment from Tel Aviv.

‘Iranian Mothership’

Tehran previously described the cargo vessel MV Saviz as engaged in aiding “anti-piracy” efforts in the Red Sea and the international shipping route through Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Ship-tracking data shows that the vessel, owned by the state-linked Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, entered the Red Sea in late 2016.

Since then it has drifted off the Dahlak archipelago, and was suggested as receiving supply replenishments and switching crew via passing Iranian vessels.

ImageSat, an intelligence firm, was cited by The Times of Israel as saying the vessel has hardly moved in the past two years.

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