TOKYO (Reuters) - The radar of a Japanese supertanker that was damaged by an explosion near the Strait of Hormuz last month showed a small ship making suspicious movements near it at the time of the incident, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said on Tuesday.
Checks of the radar showed the suspicious ship left the area at high speed immediately afterwards, NHK said. The explosion, shortly after midnight on July 28, injured one seaman but caused no oil spill or disruption to shipping in the strategic waterway.
NHK said Japan’s Transport Ministry believes there is a possibility the small ship launched an attack.
A militant group called Abdullah Azzam Brigades, linked to al Qaeda, claimed on August 4 that a suicide bomber belonging to it had attacked the tanker.
Security analysts were skeptical of the group’s claim, though the United Arab Emirates state news agency said investigators had found traces of explosives on the tanker.
The 333-meter-long very large crude carrier, named M.Star and operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, sustained damage to its hull but was able to resume its voyage to Japan after repairs at a nearby port.
A Transport Ministry official in Tokyo said it was checking the report, while Mitsui O.S.K. declined to comment.
Industry sources said the tanker was carrying more than 2 million barrels of Qatar Land and Abu Dhabi Lower Zakum crudes, equivalent to about half of Japan’s daily oil needs.
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Michael Watson