Fri, 15 Nov 2019

Iran's Foreign Ministry says an Iranian oil tanker has been damaged in an "attack" in the Red Sea.

'Those behind the attack are responsible for the consequences of this dangerous adventure, including the dangerous environmental pollution caused,' ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said on October 11.

Musavi said the vessel was struck twice in the span of half an hour, and an investigation was under way.

The explosion, which is yet to be independently verified, comes amid heightened tensions in the region.

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) earlier said the Sabiti oil tanker, said to carry 1 million barrels of oil, was hit by two missiles off the coast of Saudi Arabia.

'All the ship's crew are safe and the ship is stable too,' NITC added.

The hull of the vessel was hit by two separate explosions about 100 kilometers off the Saudi port city of Jeddah, according to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC).

'There is no fire' aboard the Sabiti and the ship is "completely stable,' the statement said.

The oil leak from the Iranian tanker "has stopped and the situation is under control,' state-run IRNA news agency reported.

State television reported that two storerooms were damaged.

Images released by the Iranian Petroleum Ministry appeared to show no visible damage to the Sabiti visible from its bridge, while satellite images of the area showed no visible smoke, AP reported.

There was no immediate acknowledgement from Saudi officials of the incident.

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 incident, which sent Benchmark Brent crude oil surging more than 2 percent to nearly $60.5, could heighten tensions between Iran and 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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