Two missiles 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. Oil prices spiked by 2% on the news.
“This latest incident, if confirmed to be an act of aggression, is highly likely to be part of the wider narrative of deteriorating relations between Saudi and the U.S. and Iran,” private maritime security firm Dryad Maritime warned.
“It is likely that the region ... will face another period of increasing maritime threats, as the Iranian and Saudi geopolitical stand-off continues,” it added.
Iranian state television said the explosion damaged two storerooms aboard the oil tanker and caused an oil leak into the Red Sea near the Saudi port city of Jiddah. The leak was later stopped, IRNA reported.
The state-run IRNA news agency, quoting Iran’s National Iranian Tanker Co., identified the stricken vessel as the Sabiti. It turned on its tracking devices late Friday morning in the Red Sea, putting its location some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Jiddah, according to data from MarineTraffic.com. The ship is carrying some 1 million barrels of crude oil, according to an analysis from data firm Refinitiv.
Images released by Iran’s Petroleum Ministry appeared to show no visible damage to the Sabiti visible from its bridge, though they did not show the ship’s sides. Satellite images of the area showed no visible smoke.
The ministry’s SHANA news agency said no ship nor any authority in the area responded to its distress messages.
The Sabiti last turned on its tracking devices in August near the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. Iranian tankers routinely turn off their trackers as U.S. sanctions target the sale of Iran’s crude oil.
“The oil tanker ... sustained damages to the body when it was hit by missiles 60 miles (96 kilometers) from the Saudi port city of Jiddah,” IRNA said.
The agency did not say whom Iranian officials suspect of launching the missiles.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the incident as an “attack” carried out by those committing “dangerous adventurism.” In a statement, Mousavi said the Sabiti was struck twice in the span of a half hour and an investigation was underway.
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.
Benchmark Brent crude oil rose over 2% in trading Friday to reach some $60.40 a barrel.
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