x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Japanese inspectors await arrival of 'attacked' tanker

Japan has set up a special committee comprising Self-Defence Force, coastguard, diplomatic, police and other officials, to inspect the M Star.

Japanese inspectors were due to board an oil tanker when it sails into Tokyo Bay this afternoon, almost a month after a suspected militant attack in the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman. Officials for the United Arab Emirates have said they believe an explosives-laden boat struck the M Star in the July 28 "terrorist attack", which dented the hull of the Japanese vessel and slightly injured one crew member.

Militant jihadists have made unconfirmed claims that a suicide bomber attacked the ship, owned by Mitsui OSK Lines and crewed by 16 Filipinos and 15 Indians, in the vital waterway leading to the oil-rich Gulf. Japan has set up a special committee comprising Self-Defence Force, coastguard, diplomatic, police and other officials, and the government has described the suspected attack as "extremely grave".

"As soon as the M Star docks in Tokyo Bay, experts of the special committee will start an on-site inspection," said a Transport Ministry official Yasufumi Onishi, adding that the inspection would continue on Wednesday morning. "There are two major reasons - to take a close look at the ship for the first time and to search for more physical evidence regarding the blast." Mitsui OSK Lines officials declined to comment, citing "security concerns".

The transport ministry has reported that the tanker's Voyage Data Recorder captured radar images showing a small vessel making suspicious movements nearby about the time of the blast. The ministry also reported that the tanker suffered sizeable damage both above and below the waterline, and that "extraneous material" had been recovered from the blast area, the official said. *AFP