An Iranian “cargo vessel” used by its Revolutionary Guards suffered damage of an unknown nature when mines attached to its hull exploded on Tuesday.
Named Iran Saviz (MV Saviz), the vessel provides logistics support to the Iranian commandos deployed to escort trade vessels in the Red Sea. The vessel also reportedly aids in “anti-piracy” efforts in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a crucial choke point in international shipping.
Iran’s Tasnim News Agency said the incident happened after the explosion of limpet mines attached to the hull of the ship. It is the first such mishap involving the Saviz boat.
Several Iranian news outlets showed images of flames and smoke billowing from a stricken vessel in the Red Sea, but the full extent of the damage or any casualties was unclear.
Saudi Arabia criticizes the presence of the vessel, claiming that is being used as a staging base for attacks on ships of the coalition involved in the war on Yemen. Briefing materials from the Saudi military earlier obtained by The Associated Press showed men on the vessel dressed in camouflage, military-style fatigues, as well as small boats capable of ferrying cargo to the Yemeni coast. It also included pictures showing a variety of antennas on the vessel that the Saudi government described as “unusual” for a commercial cargo ship, suggesting it conducted electronic surveillance.
The Washington Institute for Near-East Policy describes the “cargo” ship as an intelligence-gathering base and an armory for the Guard.
In a statement, the U.S. military’s Central Command only said it was “aware" of media reporting of an incident involving the Saviz in the Red Sea. “We can confirm that no U.S. forces were involved in the incident. We have no additional information to provide,” the command asserted.
An American official told The New York Times that the Israelis had notified the United States that its forces had struck the vessel at about 7:30 a.m. local time. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private intelligence communications, said that the Israelis had called the attack a retaliation for earlier Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels, and that the Saviz had been damaged below the water line.