A Japanese oil tanker damaged in a suspected militant attack in the Strait of Hormuz last month detected a small boat moving suspiciously nearby on its radar at the time, media reports said today. The reports came after the UAE said this month that an explosives-laden boat had struck the M Star in a "terrorist attack" that dented the side of the Japanese vessel and left one crew member slightly injured.
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, on July 28 in international waters between Iran and Oman. Japan's Jiji Press and other media said the tanker's Voyage Data Recorder had captured radar images that showed a small vessel making suspicious movements, such as close approaches to the tanker and not sailing straight.
A transport ministry official could not confirm the report but said, "The image kept in the tanker's voyage data recorder is now being investigated by the National Maritime Research Institute and the Japan Transport Safety Board. "It's not known when the results will be reported to the ministry." Jiji said Japan's National Research Institute of Police Science was now analysing about 20 items recovered from the blast area, and that the transport ministry was set to hold a meeting with maritime experts tomorrow.
The Strait of Hormuz, less than 100 kilometres across at its widest point, is the gateway to the oil-rich Gulf and a vital shipping route through which an estimated 40 per cent of global oil exports pass. The coastguard of the UAE, where the ship docked for repairs after the incident, said on August 6 that an investigation had found "remains of homemade explosives on the hull" and that it suspected a "terrorist attack".
US monitoring group SITE Intelligence has said the group Brigades of Abdullah Azzam had claimed in a message on jihadist websites that it had placed a suicide bomber on the tanker, identifying him as Ayyub al-Taishan.