Media Availability with Commander Kidoin UAE

STAFF: So, I’m going to go ahead and bring Commander Kido out. Again, he’s going to talk through some brief introductions and he’ll open it up to questions. If it seems like we’re talking over each other during the questions, I’ll help moderate that. Otherwise, I’ll turn it over to you, sir.

CMDR. KIDO:  Good morning. I’m Commander Kido. I’m the CO of Task Group 56.1. Task Group 56.1 is a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Diving and Salvage Task Group deployed to the CENTCOM AOR, trained and prepared to respond to events such as this.

Right now, there is an ongoing joint and combined investigation with our regional partners into the attacks on Motor Vessel (M/V) Kokuka Courageous as well as M/V Front Altair. I can tell you now that it is NAVCENT’s assessment that the attack on M/V Kokuka Courageous and the damage that was caused was a result of limpet mines that were attached to the skin of the ship. And you can clearly see, in the video that’s been released, an IRGC navy boat approached the M/V Kokuka Courageous and removed the limpet mine from the hull of the ship.

Our team was able to arrive on scene in an expeditious manner [and] was able to examine the site where the limpet mine was attached to the ship as well as the site where the damage occurred, at Frame 36 on the M/V Kokuka Courageous. The damage at the blast hole is consistent with a limpet mine attack. It is not consistent with an external flying object striking the ship. What the team was able to observe and recover from the site where the limpet was attached to the ship at Frame 106 was a magnet that remains as well as an imprint of the limpet mine that had been attached. There were also nail holes in the hull of the ship, indicating how it was attached to the ship.

In addition, the team was able to recover fragmentation caused by the detonation from the limpet mine, which was composed of aluminum material as well as composite material. What I can tell you is that the limpet mine that was used in the attack is distinguishable and is also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades.

This type of attack is a threat to international freedom of navigation in international waters as well as freedom of commerce. We’re working with our regional partners to ensure freedom of navigation as well as the free flow of commerce and we encourage all forces to abide by international standards, customs and laws. With that, I’ll open up for questions

Q: Commander, you say it strikingly bears a resemblance to an Iranian mine. It’s a little bit of wishy washy in there. How much certainty do you have that this was an Iranian mine, and what can you tell us about the positioning of the mine? It seems like it was set to a place to disable rather than to destroy the ship.

CMDR. KIDO: So, I’ll start with your question about the location of the mine and where the limpet mine was placed. It was placed above the water, and it does not appear that the intention was to sink the vessel. And would you repeat the remainder of your question?

Q: The second thing you said that the limpet mine bore a striking resemblance to Iranian limpet mines. Limpet mines are used by armed forces around the world. How certain is NAVCENT about that assessment that it resembles the limpet mine?

CMDR. KIDO: NAVCENT’s assessment is that the attack occurring on the M/V Kokuka Courageous was a result of limpet mines. The limpet mine that was used does bear a striking resemblance to that which has been publicly displayed in the Iranian military parades. There are distinguishing features, and I will let you know that EOD technicians in the U.S. service are all trained to identify key identification features which help us indicate what type of ordnance we’re approaching.

Q: So, I think that leads on to his question. How sophisticated are these devices? Do they pose a threat to US forces in this region?

CMDR. KIDO: So, limpet mines have been around for a long period of time. It appears as though this was factory made and I will not speculate to any threat to forces at this time.

Q: When you say factory made, how can you be sure of that [inaudible]?

CMDR. KIDO: So, the investigation is still ongoing for both of the attacks on M/V Kokuka Courageous and M/V Front Altair.

Q: So, [are other] countries taking part in the investigation?And which one is leading it, and are you also investigating the other vessel? Because we haven’t seen anything on that one.

CMDR. KIDO: Again, the investigation into both vessels are ongoing, and I’ll refer you to the PAO for a discussion about our regional partners.

Q: So, are you saying with certainty that Iran or Iranian proxies were behind this? You’re saying things like it bears striking resemblance to something that may have come from Iran. But are you saying with certainty that in fact Fifth Fleet NAVCENT assesses that this was an attack by some sort of an Iranian group or proxy?

CMDR. KIDO: I’m saying that NAVCENT’s assessment is that it was an attack by a limpet mine, and that it bears a striking resemblance.

Q: Is there any resemblance to the mines that were used in the other attacks on the four ships?

CMDR. KIDO:I’m here to talk about the attack and the investigation on the M/V Kokuka Courageous. I refer you to the NAVCENT PAO for any discussions of previous investigations..

Q: But, just to be clear, NAVCENT is not is not providing complete attribution to who was behind the attacks at this point.

CMDR. KIDO: NAVCENT’s assessment is that it was conducted by a limpet mine attack.

Q: We have to continue investigation in the port, out of the water?

CMDR. KIDO: The investigation again is ongoing with our regional partners, and I will not go into the process of that.

Q: The limpet mine was placed above the water on the hull, and the craft that approached the vessel clearly presumably would have known that they will have been photographed trying to remove the unexploded limpet mine. It doesn’t seem that they were trying to hide from this, and it doesn’t seem they were trying to sink the vessel. What is your opinion? What is the view of NAVCENT? Was this an attempted show of strength of some sort?

CMDR. KIDO: I have no speculation into what their motives were.

Q:  What can you tell me about the crew? Are they still on the boat?

CMDR. KIDO: I refer you to the NAVCENT PAO for that. It is an ongoing investigation and I’m here to discuss the efforts that the team was able to accomplish from the investigation.

Q: The Japanese owner of one of the tankers is using eyewitness accounts to say that they saw flying objects before this explosion happened. Do you have any explanation for that?

CMDR. KIDO: The presence of flying objects has no bearing on whether or not or what the attack was. Excuse me, let me correct myself. The damage that we observe is consistent with a limpet mine attack. It is not consistent with an external flying object hitting the ship.

Q: But that goes right against eyewitness accounts that say that they saw it. So it’s important to know whether these were incoming objects or whether it was the mine itself.

CMDR. KIDO: What I can tell you is the damage that we examined is not consistent with an external flying object hitting the ship.

Q: With the two tankers, one of them erupted in flames and burned for a while. Is it a difference of where those mines were set?

CMDR. KIDO: Again, the investigation is ongoing.

Q: Was it the same mines on the second vessel [inaudible].

CMDR. KIDO:Again, the investigation is ongoing. I can only discuss one vessel, Kokuka Courageous, at this time.

Q:  Sir, two questions. The two mines that were used on the Kokuka Courageous – they’re the same type of mines?

CMDR. KIDO: It appears so.

Q: So can you describe how the mines were attached? I think it looked like there may have been six magnets on the back of the mine, as well as nails. Is that common? How would you go about sticking something on the side of the ship? And does the height on the water level also suggest that it was attached from a boat, rather than from a frogman or somebody in a scuba suit?

CMDR. KIDO: Limpet mines are attached to the skin of a ship commonly by nails and magnets or a combination or either one. So, no specific indications there, and I won’t speculate to how it was placed on the ship.

Q: Did you already transfer the methanol off the Kokuka Courageous onto another tanker. Is it still inside the tanker?

CMDR. KIDO:  I’m sorry, can you repeat the question?

Q: Methanol. It was a tanker carrying methanol inside.

CMDR. KIDO: Methanol. The purpose of our investigation and our investigation team is to examine the forensic evidence and collect that. I cannot speak to the cargo that was onboard.

Q: Do you have any timeframe for the investigation to conclude?

CMDR. KIDO: The investigation is ongoing, and it will continue until complete.

Q: In your experience, when you say that it could be bearing a resemblance, is it possible to get a fingerprint, an absolute identity and say, yes, this absolutely came from this place?

CMDR. KIDO:  So, we’ve recovered biometric information to this point already, which can be used to build a criminal case to hold the individuals that are responsible accountable.

Q: Biometric information, meaning what?

CMDR. KIDO: Handprint, fingerprints, latent prints of value.

Q: You’d be able to get fingerprints from that handprint that we saw on the side of the hull?

CMDR. KIDO: Yes.

Q: Could you be certain the handprint came from the placing of the mine rather than the recovery?

CMDR. KIDO: I can be certain that the handprint was on the ship.

Q: What kind of explosive was in the mine?

CMDR. KIDO: The investigation is still ongoing. I don’t have that information for you right now.

Q: And can we just clarify the timing? These mines were placed on the 13th, and the explosion took place on the 14th. Do you have the exact time?

CMDR. KIDO: I don’t have that information on hand with me right now.