Explosion sets Iranian oil tanker ablaze off Jeddah’s coast

An explosion set an Iranian oil tanker on fire in the Red Sea, news reports said on Friday, and analysts said they believed it was a “terrorist attack”.

The blast hit a tanker that belongs to the National Iranian Oil Company and set the vessel ablaze 120km (60 miles) off the coast of the Saudi port city of Jeddah, Iran’s Students News Agency (ISNA) reported.

The explosion caused heavy damage and oil is spilling into the Red Sea, unnamed sources told ISNA.

“Experts believe it was a terrorist attack,” the news report said.

The Nour news agency, which is close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said the crew was safe and gave the name of stricken vessel as Sanitized.

“None of the crew members were injured at the explosion… The situation is under control,” Nour reported. 

There was no immediate acknowledgement from Saudi Arabia about the blast.

“Information is still coming in,” Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi reported from Tehran.

“What we do know is that this comes in a very difficult year in the waters of this region. Certainly oil tanker and oil facilities have become a major flashpoint.” 

Mysterious attacks

Several attacks on oil infrastructure in the Gulf have occurred in recent months amid heightened tensions across the Middle East.

Friday’s incident comes after the United States alleged that Iran attacked oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz in June and July, accusations denied by Tehran.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have steadily deteriorated since last year’s nuclear-deal withdrawal by the United States. 

After pulling out of the landmark accord, the US reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors in what it calls a “maximum pressure” campaign.

Mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a US military surveillance drone, and other incidents across the Middle East followed President Donald Trump’s decision.

Tensions rose further after drone and missile strikes hit Saudi Aramco facilities on September 14, halting about 5 percent of the world’s oil production. 

Several countries blamed Iran for those attacks – but Tehran denied any responsibility. 

Oil attacks: What’s next for Saudi Aramco and world oil markets?

Read the full article at: aljazeera.com