Two oil tankers were hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman, leaving one ablaze and both adrift as sailors were forces to evacuate, a month after a similar incident in which four tankers in the region were struck.
The tankers involved in the incident were identified as the Front Altair – a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel sailing from the UAE to Taiwan – and the Kokuka Courageous – a Panamanian-flagged ship sailing from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.
The Front Altair was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo,” according to Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC Corp, which had chartered the vessel.
The Kokuka Courageous is believed to have been targeted by a magnetic mine causing a series of massive explosions on board.
The US Navy said it was assisting the tankers, which issued distress calls near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
“We are aware of the reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. US Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6.12am local time and a second one at 7am,” Commander Joshua Frey of the Fifth Fleet said.
A US defense official told CBS News it was “highly likely Iran caused these attacks.” The official dismissed an Iranian claim to have rescued the crews of both vessels in the Gulf of Oman as “patently false.”
The suspected attacks occurred along one of the world’s busiest oil routes, and the price of oil surged by 4% in the hours after the incident.
[Sources: The Guardian, i24News, Straits Times, CBS News]