Iran says oil tanker “probably” hit by missiles off Saudi Arabia


Tehran, Iran — Two rockets struck an Iranian tanker traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia on Friday, Iranian officials said, the latest incident in the region amid months of heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S. There was no word from Saudi Arabia on the reported attack and Saudi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

French news agency AFP quoted Iran’s state-owned National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) as saying in a statement that the hull of the tanker “Sabiti” was hit by suspected missiles about 60 miles off the Saudi coast. The statement said two separate explosions were “probably caused by missile strikes.”

 “All the ship’s crew are safe and the ship is stable too,” said NITC, according to AFP’s report, which said news of the apparent attack drove prices for Brent crude oil up more than two percent on international markets. 

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A 2006 file photo shows the Iranian oil tanker Sabiti in the Suez Canal. The tanker is owned by Iran’s state-run National Iranian Tanker Company. Patrick Lawson / MarineTraffic.com

Iranian state television said the explosions damaged two storerooms aboard the tanker and caused oil to leak into the Red Sea near the Saudi port city of Jiddah, though the state-run Iranian media later said the leak had been brought under controlled.

According to the Associated Press, the Sabiti last turned on its tracking devices in August near the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.

Lt. Pete Pagano, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet overseeing the Mideast, said authorities there were “aware of reports of this incident,” but declined to comment further.

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The reported attack comes after a series of attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in recent months. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have blamed those attacks on Iran, but Tehran has denied any involvement.

Friday’s incident could push tensions between Iran and the U.S. even higher, more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions now crushing Iran’s economy.

The mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East followed Mr. Trump’s decision.

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The latest assault saw Saudi Arabia’s vital oil industry come under a drone-and-cruise-missile attack, halving the kingdom’s output. The U.S., Saudi Arabia and several European nations have blamed Iran for the attack.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom Saudi Arabia is fighting in a yearslong war, claimed that assault, though analysts say the missiles used in the attack wouldn’t have the range to reach the sites from Yemen.

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