Old photo of Iranian ship on fire shared as ship bearing U.S. flag in Gulf of Aden

By: Tahil Ali
July 10 2024

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Old photo of Iranian ship on fire shared as ship bearing U.S. flag in Gulf of Aden

A screenshot of a post that claims a U.S. ship was targeted in the Gulf of Aden (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)

Fact-Check

The Verdict False

This is actually an Iranian ship called the Kharg or Khark that sank after catching fire in the Gulf of Oman in 2021.

Claim ID 296be9b5

What is the claim? 

Multiple social media users have posted a photo of a burning ship, claiming that it had a United States flag and was attacked in the Gulf of Aden. One post by a user of X (previously Twitter) that made this claim amassed more than 39,000 views. The archives of these posts are here, here, and here.

Screenshots of the claim posted on social media (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)

The photos are being circulated in the context of the recent attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on a U.S.-flagged container ship on a crucial marine trade route in the Gulf of Aden. Reuters reported that the rebels claimed they had targeted the Maersk Sentosa ship in the Arabian Sea on July 9, 2024, with several ballistic and wing missiles.  

However, we found the viral photo is unrelated to the attack and shows an Iranian ship that caught fire in 2021 in the Gulf of Oman.

What are the facts? 

Upon carrying out a reverse image search, we found several media reports carrying a photo similar to the viral image. 

On June 2, 2021, Reuters reported that an Iranian navy ship, the Kharg, sank in the Gulf of Oman after catching fire. The news report carrying the original photo is titled, "Iran's biggest navy ship sinks after fire in Gulf of Oman - media."

The original photo can be seen in news reports. (Source: Reuters/Modified by Logically Facts)

The photo is credited to WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters and is captioned as, "Smoke rises from Iran navy's largest ship in Jask port in the Gulf, Iran, June 2, 2021."

According to a statement reported by a semi-official Iranian news agency, Tasnim News Agency, the ship was deployed in international waters for training in a naval operation when one of its systems caught fire near the port of Jask. According to reports, the vessel, known as Khark or Kharg, had been in service for more than four decades and had taken part in many training operations. No explanation was given for the cause of the fire, which caused it to sink.

Additionally, we also found a video (archived here) of the incident posted on the X account of Fars News Agency, a local Iranian media outlet managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), where a ship can be seen engulfed in thick black smoke in the middle of the sea. The video is also accompanied by a caption in Persian in which Fars has stated there were no casualties in this incident. Reuters used the same footage in a video about the incident.

Further, photos of the recent attack on the U.S.-flagged vessel by Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Gulf of Aden are yet to emerge. No injuries to the crew or damage to the ship or cargo have been reported yet. 

According to news reports, the rebel group has targeted more than 70 ships using drones and missiles, capturing one vessel, sinking two, and claiming the lives of a total of four sailors since November last year. 

The verdict

A photo of a burning ship has been shared by several social media users, claiming it to be a U.S.-flagged ship attacked in the Gulf of Aden. However, the claims are false as the photo is actually of an Iranian ship, the Kharg, that sank in the Gulf of Oman after catching fire in 2021. 

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