THE first pictures have emerged of the damage done to ships that were hit by a “sabotage attack” off the United Arab Emirates.
The ships were struck off the coast near the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates – with one of the tankers due to be loaded with Saudi crude oil bound for the United States.
A Pentagon official has said the US military is assisting with the investigation into the attack after a request was made by the UAE government.
The MT Andrea Victory, another of the allegedly targeted ships, sustained a hole in its hull just above its waterline from “an unknown object,” its owner Thome Ship Management said in a statement.
America has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.
Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih revealed the tankers suffered “significant damage” – although it was unclear what the attack involved.
He said: “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”
Trading and shipping sources identified the Saudi ships as Bahri-owned very large crude carrier (VLCC) tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah.
A huge US naval presence has built up in the Gulf over recent days amid a fevered standoff between Washington and Tehran.
US intelligence revealed Iran was on the verge of carrying out offensive action to disrupt and attack American and partner interests in the region.
It led to the deployment of US aircraft carriers, Patriot missiles and B52 bombers over recent days.
On Friday, a senior Iranian cleric said the US fleet could be wiped out “with a single missile”.
And the hardline Iranian Revolutionary Guard said it was not prepared to enter into talks with President Donald Trump – who had called for negotiations over ending Iran’s nuclear programme.
Just minutes before the sabotage attack was revealed today, the US Maritime Administration warned shippers to exercise caution when travelling past Fujairah.
The general-secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council described the sabotage as a “serious escalation” in an overnight statement.
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Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said: “Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger.”
Earlier this month, the Maritime Administration warned that U.S. commercial ships including oil tankers sailing through key Middle East waterways could be targeted by Iran in one of the threats to U.S. interests posed by Tehran.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman called the incidents on Sunday to ships near the coast of Fujairah “worrisome and dreadful”, and asked for an investigation into the matter.
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