One of Iran's largest naval vessels has caught fire and sunk in the Gulf of Oman. 

The Kharg, a 650ft cargo vessel designed to resupply ships at sea, caught fire Tuesday after a fault 'in one of its systems' during a training exercise.

All 400 crew and students on board the vessel - built in Britain in 1977 - were evacuated with only minor injuries, the Iranian military said, before firefighters tried to tackle the blaze.


But they were unable to save the ship which sank Wednesday morning near the port of Jask 'after 20 hours of dedicated efforts to save it', Iranian officials said.  

It is not yet clear how the fire started, but it comes amid attacks on cargo ships and military vessels that Iran and Israel have blamed on one-another - worsening already fraught relations between the old adversaries. 

The Kharg, an Iranian navy support vessel and one of the force's largest ships, sunk this morning near the port of Jask after burning for more than 20 hours overnight

The Kharg, an Iranian navy support vessel and one of the force's largest ships, sunk this morning near the port of Jask after burning for more than 20 hours overnight

Iran said the fire broke out 'in one of the systems' of the ship on Tuesday, without elaborating. It comes amid a series of attacks that Iran and Israel blame on one-another

Iran said the fire broke out 'in one of the systems' of the ship on Tuesday, without elaborating. It comes amid a series of attacks that Iran and Israel blame on one-another

Smoke rises from Iranian navy ship that sunk in Gulf of Oman
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In April, Iran blamed Israel for a blast which damaged military vessel MV Saviz in the Red Sea - saying the 'attack' was carried out using underwater mines. 

The previous month, an Israeli cargo vessel was hit by a missile in the Arabian Sea while sailing from Tanzania to India, with Israeli security services blaming Tehran. 

And in February, the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray car carrier was also hit by explosions while sailing off the coast of UAE.

While Israel made no official accusation at the time, Hebrew media reported that Iran was top of a list of suspects. 

The blasts also form part of a years-long shadow war in Middle Eastern waters which has also seen ships linked to Saudi Arabia and the UAE damaged - including a series of blasts in 2019 that almost drove the US and Iran to war. 

Iran says 20 sailors were lightly wounded with burns during the incident, but nobody was seriously hurt

Iran says 20 sailors were lightly wounded with burns during the incident, but nobody was seriously hurt

American intelligence agencies had directly blamed Iran for two tanker attacks that occurred that year, sparking a series of tit-for-tat skirmishes that ended with a US drone strike which killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, and saw Iran launch missiles at a US airbase in Iraq in retaliation. 

Israel and Iran - long-time regional foes - have most-recently been feuding over a 2015 deal signed by Obama that sought to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons in return for trade incentives.

Trump, spurred on by Israel, tore up the deal in 2018. Biden now wants to renegotiate terms with Tehran, which seems to have prompted the latest round of fighting. 

The Kharg had around 400 crew and students on board when the fire broke out on Tuesday, a government spokesman told the Tasnim news agency.

He said around 20 people had received minor burn injuries before the ship was evacuated, and that nobody was seriously hurt.

The spokesman added that the cause of the fire is still under investigation, and a statement will be made soon. 

Jeremy Binnie of open-source defence intelligence provider Janes said the Kharg was important to Iran as its only dedicated vessel able to resupply warships at sea.

'The Iranians often describe it as a "helicopter carrier" but it is actually a replenishment ship - a useful asset nonetheless as it was the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy's only dedicated ship serving this role,' Binnie said.

'It is not the IRIN's largest vessel any more after they commissioned Makran, a converted oil tanker, in January.'

The navy said the vessel was on a 'training mission' in international waters.

Iran's ISNA news agency said its mission had focused on 'training, intelligence and combat' alongside the destroyer Alborz. 

The Kharg was initially ordered from British shipmaker Swan Hunter in the 1970s by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi - an ally of the West - before the 1979 Revolution which saw him ousted from power and driven into exile.


The vessel was taking part in a training exercise with 400 people on board when the blaze broke out on Tuesday (pictured, the boat on fire)

The vessel was taking part in a training exercise with 400 people on board when the blaze broke out on Tuesday (pictured, the boat on fire)

The blaze broke out as the Kharg was sailing near the Strait of Hormuz, with all sailors evacuated to shore before the ship went down

The blaze broke out as the Kharg was sailing near the Strait of Hormuz, with all sailors evacuated to shore before the ship went down

Following the revolution, the Kharg became a political hot potato and its transfer to Iran was held up several times - firstly because of the hostage crisis which saw Americans held prisoner in Tehran from 1979 until 1981, and then because of the detention of a British nation - Andrew Pyke - in Iran.

The ship was eventually handed over to Iran in 1984, after the hostage crisis had ended and Pyke had been released, on the grounds that is was a support vessels and could not be used in offensive operations.   

The sinking of the Kharg in just the latest naval disaster for Iran. 

In 2020 during an Iranian military training exercise, a missile mistakenly struck a naval vessel near the port of Jask, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15.  

Also in 2018, an Iranian navy destroyer sank in the Caspian Sea. 

In 2019, a series of explosions and fires on oil tankers linked both Iran and Saudi Arabia around the Arabian Peninsula brought the two sides close to war.

The blasts began in May when four tankers - two Saudi-flagged, one Norwegian-flagged and one Emirati-flagged - were damaged near the coast of UAE.

Then in June, the Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous were damaged in what was initially reported as a fire on the latter vessel. 

American intelligence agencies backed by the UK and Saudi Arabia later accused Iran of attaching limpet mines to the side of the tankers, blowing holes in the hull which sparked the blaze. 

That was followed by drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia's largest oil processing facility at Abqaiq which it blamed on Iran. 

The Kharg was built in Britain in 1977 and entered the Iranian Navy in 1984 . It was designed to resupply other ships at sea, lift heavy cargo, and launch helicopters

The Kharg was built in Britain in 1977 and entered the Iranian Navy in 1984 . It was designed to resupply other ships at sea, lift heavy cargo, and launch helicopters

In October, Iran then reported that one of its oil tankers had been hit by two missiles in the Red Sea, on the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, in what it said was a 'terrorist attack.'

Then, the follow year, Iran was hit by a series of major fires that broke out on land - sparking rumours of sabotage operations.

The most serious blast took place in July that year at the Natanz nuclear facility causing significant damage, though officials said operations were not affected.

Another explosion hit a medical clinic north of Tehran last month, killing 19 people in what Iran said was a gas leak.

On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that was also blamed on a gas leak.

Six other fires and blasts have also been reported, most of which have taken place around Tehran, but some of which have occurred further south.

A factory in Baqershahr, a power plant in Zergan, the Shahid Tondgooyan petrochemicals plant, and Bushehr shipyard have all been struck.

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