A militant group linked to al Qaeda claimed that a suicide bomber from its organization was responsible for an explosion on a Japanese super tanker near the Strait of Hormuz.
A group using the name Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which also claimed attacks in Israel last year and in Egypt and Jordan in 2005, posted a statement and photo on an Islamist website used by militants.
“Last Wednesday, after midnight, the martyrdom-seeking hero Ayyub al-Taishan … blew himself up in the Japanese tanker M.Star in the Strait of Hormuz between the United Arab Emirates and Oman,” the statement said.
Independent verification of the claim was not immediately available. A spokeswoman for the ship’s owner, Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Ltd, could not immediately comment. The company hired a Dubai-based specialist last week to investigate what had damaged the 333 meter-long M.Star. Japan’s foreign and transport ministries also had no immediate comment.
The narrow Strait is gateway to the oil-producing Gulf and handles 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil. Al Qaeda has threatened to attack shipping there in the past, Reuters reports. Bordered by Iran, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, it is guarded by US and other warships.
Attacks claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades include deadly bombings at the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in 2005 and the firing of rockets which missed two US warships in Jordan’s Aqaba port the same year. A statement last year signed by the Ziad al-Jarrah division of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for firing two rockets into northern Israel.
Wednesday’s statement on the al Faloja website included a photo of the alleged suicide bomber, dressed in an Arab-style white robe and cap, pointing at a picture of a supertanker on a videoscreen.
REGIONAL TENSION RISING
The group claimed the attack was a blow to the global economy and the oil market and that those who have offered other explanations for the incident, which have ranged from a freak wave to an internal explosion, are trying to cover up the operation.
The oil market ignored the incident last Wednesday, with oil prices easing in response to news that US oil inventories had risen. Traffic near the busy Strait was not disrupted and the tanker diverted to a UAE port where it is being examined. “They could be claiming this to try to get the global spotlight to seem bigger than they really are,” said Theodore Karasik, a security analyst at Dubai-based group INEGMA.
Abdullah Azzam Brigades, believed to be an al Qaeda-linked group in the Levant and Egypt, has previously taken responsibility for attacks that other groups have claimed. Karasik noted that the timing of the claim — a day after deadly clashes on the Israeli-Lebanese border and two days after rocket fire on Israeli and Jordanian Red Sea port towns — might be an effort to raise tensions further in the region.