Iran says oil tanker struck by rockets off Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 12 Oct, 2019

Tensions in the Middle East have escalated in the wake of attacks on tankers and US drones in the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping artery of the global oil trade.

Tensions are already high in the Red Sea shipping area, which links the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. Oil prices spiked by 2% on the news.

There was no immediate word from Saudi Arabia on the reported blast.

Iran has been locked in a standoff with the US and its Arab allies since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal that gave it relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

U.S. sanctions have slashed Iranian oil exports, on which Tehran relies.

It was an apparent retaliation to an Iranian oil tanker being detained off the coast of Gibraltar by British Royal Marines two weeks before.

The company also denied media reports citing it as saying missiles hit the oil tanker.

The Pentagon on Friday said it would send thousands of troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia, a move that follows last month's drone attack targeting the Middle Eastern nation's oil facilities.

Iran denied involvement in all the incidents.

The attack was the latest part of a series of attacks on oil infrastructure, including the sabotage of pumping stations along the East-West pipeline, and attacks on oil tankers off Fujairah and close to the Strait of Hormuz.

The vessel last turned on its tracking devices in August near the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.

The state-run IRNA news agency, quoting Iran's National Iranian Tanker Co., identified the stricken vessel as the Sabiti.

On Sept. 14, drone attacks on two of Saudi Arabia's Aramco oil facilities sliced the country's oil production in half. Output has since been restored.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility for those attacks, but a U.S. official said they originated from southwestern Iran.

This attack follows a stand off between Iran, the United Kingdom and the USA over the positioning of oil tankers, an alleged attack on tankers, and a month on from the air strikes on Saudi oil facilities.

Over the past months, Iranian tankers have faced a number of "destructive actions" in the Red Sea, he said.