’Iranian tanker ‘attacked’ off Saudi coast’

An Iranian-owned oil tanker has been attacked in the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s foreign ministry says.

The ministry said the tanker Sabiti had been hit twice, causing some damage.

Earlier, Iran’s national oil company (NIOC) said two explosions on the vessel had been caused “likely by missiles”.

But it dismissed earlier reports quoting it as saying the missiles were likely to have come from Saudi Arabia.

In recent months, “other sabotage acts” had been carried out against Iranian tankers in the Red Sea and these were being investigated, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

The incident took place at 04:50 (01:50 GMT) about 95km (60 miles) from the Saudi city of Jeddah, Iran’s Mehr news agency said.

Two of the vessel’s tanks were struck, it added, causing damage measuring between 0.5m and 1.5m. There were no reports of injuries.

The Sabiti is now sailing towards the Gulf, Mehr said.

The reports have so far only come from Iranian sources. There has been no comment from Saudi officials.

Iranian state TV earlier identified the vessel as the Sinopa, but the NIOC later said it was the Sabiti.

Pictures allegedly taken on Friday aboard the Sabiti have been published by Iranian state TV, showing no visible signs of damage.

This story is as clear as mud. It seemed to change. Two different ships have been named – the Sinopa and the Sabiti. We had reports of missiles striking the tanker and then an accusation briefly levelled against Saudi Arabia for committing what was described as an “act of terrorism”. That claim seems to have been dropped quite quickly.

And crucially there is no independent evidence at all that the vessel was struck. Pictures were released later in the morning showing nothing untoward. And most crucially both tankers are currently steaming at full speed in their different directions so there is no evidence that either vessel has been impaired in any way.

Publicly available ship tracking records show both ships are currently in the Red Sea. The Sinopa turned its transmitter on earlier this week for the first time in more than 50 days. The Sabiti, meanwhile, turned its tracker on early Friday after nearly 60 days of no transmissions. -BBC

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