Checkpoint Asia

A Pair of Tankers ‘Struck’ and On Fire at Entrance to Strait of Hormuz

Iranian FM: "Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what happened"

Tankers were carrying Japanese cargo and were struck while Japan’s Abe is in Iran for talks

Editor’s note: The UAE report on sabotage vs the four tankers last month blamed a “state actor” but stopped short of pointing a finger at Iran. It was said it was sophisticated enough it could only have been carried out with the help of an intelligence/military service.

Iran rescued dozens of sailors from oil tankers that were reportedly attacked in the Gulf of Oman off the UAE coast, according to IRNA. One of the vessels was allegedly targeted by a torpedo, reports said.

The rescue ship evacuated 44 crew members from the tankers in distress, bringing them to safety to the city of Jask in the southern Hormozgan Province, IRNA reported, citing an informed source.

The oil tankers, identified by Reuters as the Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous, have been evacuated following suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman. A report by shipping newspaper TradeWinds claimed that the Norwegian tanker (Front Altair) was hit by a torpedo off the UAE coast.

Images posted by Tasnim News Agency apparently show one of the vessels with a huge plume of smoke rising in the air.

Details about the incidents are still unclear, but it is known that the tankers sent distress signals to ports and vessels in the vicinity. Iranian rescuers were first to reach the ships, local media reported.

Kokura’s manager said the tanker was damaged on its hull in a security incident in which one crew member was slightly injured. Iran’s Al-Alam television network reported two explosions were heard in the Sea of Oman Thursday morning, Press TV reports.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said it was aware of an incident in the Gulf and urged “extreme caution.”  The US Fifth Fleet for its part also announced two oil tankers were damaged in an incident near the Strait of Hormuz and that one of the ships’ operators described as a suspected attack, Bloomberg reports.

“US Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12a.m. local time and a second one at 7:00 am,” Joshua Frey of the Fifth Fleet said.

Oman has confirmed there has been an explosion on board the Front Altair, the Norwegian-owned tanker, according to Dagbladet newspaper. Nasser Selim, spokesman for the Omani Coast Guard, told the paper that the incident occurred in Iranian waters, and that Oman is in touch with Iran about this.

The latest reports also say the vessel has now sunk. [Or maybe not: Frontline spokesman denies IRNA report that Front Altair has sunk]

The alleged attacks occurred during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Tehran. The fact that the two vessels had “Japan-related cargo” on board was particularly sensitive, Iran’s Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif noted. “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” he posted on Twitter.

The story comes after four oil tankers were attacked in UAE waters last month. The Emirates’ authorities claimed it was a “sabotage” operation, later accusing an unnamed “state actor”of being behind it. The US has predictably pinned the blame on Tehran with arch-hawk John Bolton alleging that Iran “almost certainly” used “naval mines” to target the ships.

However, exact details of the May incidents are shrouded in mystery. There is no information on casualties so far, moreover, local authorities denied reports of an explosion at an oil terminal in the Emirati port of Fujairah.

Iran, for its part, strongly denied unsubstantiated accusations by Bolton, calling them “ridiculous.” Earlier, the Foreign Ministry cautioned that the whole story could be a “conspiracy by ill-wishers.”

Source: RT