Mon, 20 Jan 2020

An Iranian oil tanker was hit by suspected missile strikes off the coast of Saudi Arabia, causing oil to leak into the Red Sea, according to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC).

The hull of the Sabiti was hit by two separate explosions about 100 kilometers off the Saudi port city of Jeddah, the state-owned company said on October 11.

The statement said the blasts were 'probably caused by missile strikes."

Citing the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), state TV reported that the ship was hit by two missiles.

There was no immediate acknowledgement from Saudi officials of the incident, which comes amid heightened tensions in the region.

'All the ship's crew are safe and the ship is stable too,' NITC said, adding those on board were trying to repair the damage.

'There is no fire aboard the ship, it said, adding that the vessel is "completely stable.'

Iranian media earlier reported that an explosion had set the oil tanker on fire.

The blast caused heavy damages to the tanker, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

Experts on board to investigate suspected it was a 'terrorist attack,' the agency said, citing unidentified sources.

State television reported that the explosion damaged two storerooms.

A spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, said the authorities there were 'aware of reports of this incident,' but declined to comment further.

The October 11 incident could increase tensions between Iran, the United States, and its allies.

A September 14 missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabia damaged the world's biggest petroleum-processing facility and knocked out more than 5 percent of global oil supply.

The attack was claimed by Yemen's Iran-backed Shi'ite Huthi rebels, but Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Western European countries have blamed Iran.

U.S. officials have also accused Tehran of being responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf in June and July, as well as attacks on another four tankers in May.

Iran has denied involvement in all these incidents.

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since the United States last year withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and the BBC

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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