Shafaq News / security source said on Friday that the Iraqi oil tanker had been unloaded off the Iraqi coast.
The source told Shafaq News Agency that the authorities completed, today, the unloading of oil from the “mined oil tanker.”
The bomb team is still trying to remove the mine. The source added
Earlier, the Iraqi oil tanker was evacuated after a mine was discovered attached to its hull, and explosives experts were working to make it safe, Iraq’s military said on Friday.
The tanker was in international waters about 28 nautical miles (52 km) off Iraq’s coast in the Persian Gulf and supplying another ship with fuel when the device was discovered on Thursday afternoon, the military said in its statement.
“It’s a complicated marine bomb with sensors that could cause a sudden explosion,” a security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
“Our team has not dealt with such mines before and we asked for further assistance from a more professional bombs team,” the source said.
Iraq’s navy had secured the area and the ship has been isolated from other vessels, two other security sources said.
It was not immediately clear how the mine was attached to the tanker, which was being rented by an unidentified client from SOMO, Iraq’s state oil marketing organization, the military said.
The Persian Gulf and Red Sea have been a hotbed for attacks on vessels in recent years, with tensions flaring between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In December, an explosion that Saudi officials described as a “terrorist” attack rocked a ship in the port of Jeddah on the Red Sea. That incident occurred just weeks after an oil tanker was damaged in a possible attack in the same body of water.
At the same time, there is heightened focus on security in the region -- particularly with Iran, which is subject to U.S. sanctions -- as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to succeed Donald Trump later this month. Almost exactly a year ago, Trump ordered a drone strike in Iraq that killed one of Iran’s most powerful generals.
For its part, The Iraqi Oil Company of the Ministry of Oil denied, on Friday, that the "mine tanker" was targeting to blow up Umm Qasr port.
The assistant general manager of the company, Ali Qais, said in a statement received by Shafaq News Agency, "The ship was not coming from Iraq, but rather it has been anchored in the so-called area Al-Maghtas within the territorial waters since October 2020," indicating that "Since yesterday, we have evacuated some of our crews."
Qais indicated that the security forces will issue its report officially after dismantling the mine.