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Saudi Arabia: Oil tankers damaged in 'sabotage attack'

May 13, 2019

Two oil tankers sustained "significant damage" in an incident off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, according to the Saudi energy minister. Officials did not say who was behind the alleged sabotage.

An oil refinery in the port of Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/V. Christian

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two of its oil tankers were targeted in a "sabotage attack" off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The announcement comes amid increased tensions in the region between the United States and Iran, although no details have been released on the nature of the sabotage or who may have been responsible.

What happened?

  • Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said two of its oil tankers were the target of a "sabotage attack" off the coast of Fujairah.
  • He said that one tanker was on its way to the kingdom to be loaded with crude oil to be sent to the US.
  • There were no casualties and no oil was spilled, but the incident caused "significant damage" to the two ships.
  • UAE officials said earlier that an alleged sabotage attack targeted four boats, including a UAE-flagged vessel.
  • Thome Ship Management said one of its Norwegian-registered tankers was "struck by an unknown object".
Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih
Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the incident was aimed at undermining the security of oil suppliesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/L. Niesner

Iran calls for clarification

Iran's Foreign Ministry voiced concern over the alleged attacks on the ships and said that more information should be made available about what exactly took place.

Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also cautioned against any "conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers" or any attempt to undermine security and stability in the region.

The secretary-general of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council called the incident a "serious escalation."

"Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger," Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said.

Map of Strait of Hormus

Tensions growing

The reports on Monday came as the US warned ships in the region that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic. Last week, the US announced that it dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East to send a "clear and unmistakable" message to Iran. 

Iran then announced it would roll back some of its commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal, which has been under fire since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord a year ago. The US has also ramped up sanctions against Iran and designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.

rs/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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