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Sun 21 Nov 2010 07:39 PM

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Japanese tanker blast in Gulf was militant attack

Crew of the M Star reported an explosion shortly after midnight on July 28

Japanese tanker blast in Gulf was militant attack
SHIP BLAST: A militant group called Abdullah Azzam Brigades said that a suicide bomber belonging to it had attacked the tanker (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

A Japanese oil tanker damaged in July near the Strait of Hormuz shipping lane was attacked by an al Qaeda linked group that could carry out more such attacks in the area, according to the US Department of Transport.

The crew of the M Star reported an explosion shortly after midnight on July 28 that injured one seaman but caused no oil spill or disruption to shipping in the strategic waterway.

A militant group called Abdullah Azzam Brigades said that a suicide bomber belonging to it had attacked the tanker. The incident sparked theories ranging from a freak wave to a collision with a US nuclear submarine.

"Government and industry sources can confirm that the claim by the Abdullah Azzam brigades ... is valid," the US Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration said in an advisory to mariners dated November 19.

The advisory said: "The group remains active and can conduct further attacks on vessels in areas in the Strait of Hormuz, southern Arabian Gulf, and western Gulf of Oman."

Ships in these waters should "exercise increased vigilance and caution" particularly during the night and should keep a special eye on activities of smaller vessels, it said.

Bordered by Iran, Oman and the UAE, the busy Strait, the gateway to the Gulf which handles 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil, is guarded by US and other warships.

Analysts cast doubt on Abdullah Azzam Brigades' claim of responsibility, saying it had a history of taking responsibility for attacks also claimed by other organisations.(Reuters)

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