A missile fired during an Iranian training exercise mistakenly struck a naval vessel instead of its intended target in waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15 others, Iranian authorities said Monday.
The bungled training exercises took place Sunday and raised new questions about the Islamic Republic’s armed forces, just months after they accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jetliner near Tehran, killing 176 passengers.
It also comes soon after a tense naval encounter between Iranian and U.S. forces in the nearby Persian Gulf.
Sunday’s friendly fire incident struck the Iranian navy vessel Konarak near the port of Jask, 790 miles southeast of Tehran in the Gulf of Oman, the Iranian army said in a statement.
Iran’s regular navy typically patrols those waters, while vessels from the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard usually patrol the Persian Gulf.
The Konarak, a Hendijan-class support ship taking part in the exercise, came too close to a target and the missile struck it, state TV said.
Authorities did not identify the ship that fired the missile, though semiofficial media in Iran identified it as the Iranian destroyer Jamaran.
The Konarak had been putting targets out for other ships to target, state TV said.
Initially, officials said only one sailor had been killed. That number quickly changed to 19. A local hospital admitted 12 sailors and treated another three with slight wounds, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.
Iranian vessels towed the Konarak into a nearby naval base after the strike. A photograph released by the Iranian army showed burn marks and some damage to the vessel, though the military did not immediately offer detailed photographs of the site of the missile’s impact.
Iranian king Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi had purchased the Dutch-made, 155-foot vessel just before being toppled by the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Konarak entered service in 1988, and crews later overhauled the vessel some 30 years later, making it able to launch sea and anti-ship missiles.