Mitsui O.S.K. Chief: Terrorism a Possibility in Damaged Tanker

August 6, 2010

The head of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd said he does not rule out the possibility that terrorism was behind an explosion that damaged a Japanese supertanker, the Nikkei business daily said on Friday.

“We do not have the authority to investigate, but we are not ruling out the possibility of terrorism,” Mitsui O.S.K. President Koichi Muto told the paper.

A militant group linked to al Qaeda said on Wednesday a suicide bomber was responsible for a mystery explosion on the vessel a week ago near the Strait of Hormuz but analysts cast doubt on the claim.

The crew of the M.Star reported a blast shortly after midnight on July 28, injuring one seaman but causing no oil spill or disruption to shipping in the strategic waterway.

Independent verification was not immediately available for the al Qaeda claim, and the incident sparked theories ranging from a freak wave to a collision with a U.S. nuclear submarine.

Muto also told the Nikkei that the blast did not result from an accidental internal explosion on the vessel, adding that it would take a considerable amount of time to find the cause.

Some foreign shipping firms have armed their vessels to fend off attacks, but Mitsui O.S.K. has no plans to do so, Muto said.

“Shipping companies can only do so much,” Muto told the paper. “We ask again that the nations that oversee the strait and the Japanese government work to ensure safety.”

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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