Two oil tankers have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman, leaving one ablaze and the other adrift, a month after a similar incident in which four tankers in the region were struck.
“Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” tweeted the Iranian foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, adding that the incidents took place while Abe was meeting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, “for extensive and friendly talks”.
The Front Altair was on fire in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran after an explosion that a source blamed on a magnetic mine. The crew of the Norwegian vessel were picked up by a vessel in the area and passed to an Iranian rescue boat.
Front Altair was reportedly carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha, a petrochemical feedstock, when it suffered a suspected torpedo hit, according to Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC, which chartered the vessel.
The second tanker, Kokuka Courageous, was damaged in a “suspected attack” that breached the hull above the water line while on passage from Saudi Arabia to Singapore, according to Bernhard Schulte Ship management.
The crew were also picked up. Iranian state TV reported 44 crew had been evacuated from the tankers to an Iranian port.
Tensions in the Gulf have been close to boiling point for weeks as the US puts “maximum economic pressure” on Iran in an attempt to force Tehran to reopen talks about the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year.