CAIRO — An obscure al-Qaida-linked group said Wednesday one of its suicide bombers attacked a Japanese oil tanker in the Persian Gulf last week — a claim that, if true, would be the first time the terror network has attacked the Japanese.
There have been conflicting reports about what happened to the M. Star supertanker, which was damaged July 28 in the Strait of Hormuz — a transit point for about 40 percent of tanker-shipped oil worldwide. The ship's owner, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, said it was aware of the militant posting and was investigating the claim.
The Brigades of Abdullah Azzam posted a statement on the Internet claiming responsibility for attacking the vessel. The statement's authenticity could not be independently verified but it appeared on websites that usually carry militant groups' messages.
A crew member was injured and the tanker sustained a square-shaped dent on the rear side of the hull during an incident that occurred as the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel entered the strait shortly after midnight. At the time, the ship, loaded with 270,000 tons of oil, was heading from the petroleum port of Das Island in the United Arab Emirates to the Japanese port of Chiba outside Tokyo.
The militant statement identified the purported bomber as Ayyub al-Tishan and carried his picture, showing him dressed in a white Arab robe and head-cover and pointing to a photograph of a tanker on a laptop. It said the bomber was a "martyr" — meaning he had died in the attack. It also said it had delayed the announcement until several group members who were involved in the operation "returned safely to base."
The statement claimed the attack meant to "weaken the international blasphemous system that plundered the wealth of the Muslims" and mocked officials who had said the tanker may have been damaged from an earthquake, describing those remarks as an effort by authorities to conceal the nature of the attack because of the effect it could have on oil prices and world economy.