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PHOTOS: Two missiles hit Iranian oil tanker from unknown source

Iran Oil Tanker (Alf van Beem/WikiCommons)
October 11, 2019

Two explosions rocked an Iranian oil tanker carrying around one million gallons of oil as it passed within 60 miles of the Saudi Arabian coast on Friday.

While the Iranian government has not yet determined who launched the attack against the oil tanker, the vessel was passing by the Saudi port of Jeddah and, according to the BBC, unnamed sources have told Iranian media the missiles “probably” originated in Saudi Arabia. The explosions, believed to be caused by missile strikes, resulted in an oil leak into the Red Sea.

Iranian officials are still working to determine both the official cause and culprit of the attacks, but the attack is likely to result in increased tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on the Friday incident, nor has it claimed credit for the apparent attack.

The Associated Press reports Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the incident as an “attack” and the result of “dangerous adventurism,” though he did not name an attacker directly.

Mousavi also said the two separate explosions occurred within a half-hour span of time and called for an investigation.

“This latest incident, if confirmed to be an act of aggression, is highly likely to be part of the wider narrative of deteriorating relations between Saudi and the U.S. and Iran,” Dryan Maritime, a private maritime security firm, said in an assessment of the attack provided to the Associated Press.

“It is likely that the region … will face another period of increasing maritime threats, as the Iranian and Saudi geopolitical stand-off continues,” the statement continued.

Both U.S. and Saudi Arabian officials have blamed Iran for a September drone and missile attack on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities. The Iranian government itself has denied responsibility.

The attack on Saudi Arabian oil production was one of several escalating incidents throughout the summer.

According to NPR, the Iranian vessel was en route to Port Said, Egypt, after which it had an unknown destination.

Michelle Bockmann, a shipping analyst, told the BBC the Iranian vessel was likely carrying its oil to Syria.

“That really is, along with China, the only market there is for Iranian crude now since the U.S. tightened sanctions in May,” Bockmann said.

Iran has made past agreements not to sell oil to the Syrian government, which also remains under sanction. In September, the U.S. accused a seized Iranian tanker of breaking that agreement.

The U.S. has increased its economic sanctions on Iran since the September attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.