TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — 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.
Iranian state television said the explosion damaged two storerooms aboard the unnamed 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 vessel 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.
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.
The reported attack comes after the U.S. has alleged that in past months Iran attacked oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, something denied by Tehran.
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 Trump’s decision.
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. has blamed Iran for the attack, something denied by Tehran. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom the kingdom 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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