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Saudi oil tankers among ships targeted by 'sabotage attacks'

The ships suffered “significant damage” but none of the crew members were harmed.

Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah.
Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah.
Image: PA

FOUR SHIPS, INCLUDING two Saudi oil tankers, were damaged in mysterious “sabotage attacks” that have further inflamed Gulf tensions amid a standoff between the United States and Iran.

A United Arab Emirates government official said the Saudi oil tankers Al-Marzoqah and Amjad were attacked off the emirate of Fujairah along with the Norwegian tanker Andrea Victory and an Emirati ship, the A. Michel.

The Andrea Victory’s managers, Thome Group, said the tanker had a hole in the hull area “after being struck by an unknown object on the waterline”.

The crew were unharmed and the ship was not in any danger of sinking.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the kingdom’s two tankers suffered “significant damage” but there were no casualties or any oil spill.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE gave details on the nature of the attacks or accused anyone of responsibility.

The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the Emirates would probe the “deliberate sabotage” of the ships.

‘Alarming’

In the face of growing international concern, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scrapped a planned visit to Moscow to head to Brussels instead for talks with European officials on Iran.

Tehran called for an investigation into yesterday’s “alarming” attacks off the Emirati coast and warned of “adventurism” by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

Emirates Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Source: PA

Britain said there was a danger of conflict erupting “by accident” in the Gulf. US President Donald Trump warned Iran would “suffer greatly” if it does “anything”.

“I’m hearing little stories about Iran,” Trump said at the White House. “If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake. If they do anything they will suffer greatly.”

The United States has already strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged Iranian threats.

Saudi Arabia, the Islamic republic’s regional arch-rival, condemned “the acts of sabotage which targeted commercial and civilian vessels near the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates”, a foreign ministry source said.

“This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation and adversely impacts regional and international peace and security,” the source added.

The United Nations called for restraint from all sides.

“We are concerned about the heightened tensions in the region. We call upon all concerned parties to exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace, including by ensuring maritime security,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

- © AFP 2019

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