Iran holds funeral for 19 sailors killed in navy accident

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran held a funeral on Tuesday for 19 dead sailors when a missile fired during an Iranian military exercise this week mistakenly hit a navy ship, state television reported.

The ceremony took place at a naval base in the port city of Chahbahar, some 1,400 kilometers southeast of the capital, Tehran. Families and relatives of the dead soldiers, along with government and military officials, attended the ceremony, according to the report.

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The small training exercises took place on Sunday, in the waters near the strategic strait of Hormuz. The missile hit the navy ship Konarak in the port of Jask in the Gulf of Oman. The Konarak, a Hendijan-class support vessel that participated in the exercise, came very close to a target and the missile hit it, state TV said. Konarak was setting targets for other ships to attack.

Fifteen Iranian sailors were also wounded in the incident, which raised new questions about the readiness of the Islamic Republic's armed forces amid increased tensions with the United States, just a few months after accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian plane near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran regularly exercises in the Gulf of Oman, which is close to the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of world oil trade passes.

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President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers two years ago, launching a campaign of maximum pressure against Iran that recently brought the two countries to the brink of total conflict.

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