Operator of tanker says sailors saw 'flying objects' just before attack

Two oil tankers damaged in Gulf 'attacks' | News

Mike Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman

"That the U.S. immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran-w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence-only makes it abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy-including by [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe]-and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran", Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Zarif uses the term B Team to refer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud.

Yutaka Katada, president of shipping company Kokuka Sangyo Ltd. points to a picture of their tanker Kokuka Courageous, one of two that were hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman, during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan June 14, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo.

Iran has denied being involved in the attack, calling it an "unfounded claim" in the US' "Iranophobic campaign".

Oil prices surged by 4 per cent after the report, which has further stoked tensions following attacks last month on Gulf oil assets amid a dispute between Iran and the USA over Tehran's nuclear program.

"The shipping industry views this as an escalation of the situation, and we are just about as close to a conflict without there being an actual armed conflict, so the tensions are very high", said Jakob P Larsen, the head of maritime security for the shipping association BIMCO, which represents some 60 percent of the world's merchant fleet, including owners of the two damaged tankers.

Such imagery is often hard to declassify and its release appeared to show United States efforts to convince the worldwide community of Iran's culpability in Thursday's attacks on the Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned Front Altair.

The fact that both vessels remained afloat suggested mines may have damaged them, said Jakob P. Larsen, head of maritime security for BIMCO, the largest global association representing ship owners.

Central Command also offered a detailed chronology of events, starting with US Navy forces receiving distress calls from the Altair at 6.12am and from the Kokuka Courageous at 7am.

Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz were reportedly attacked on Thursday.

The suspected attacks occurred at dawn Thursday about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the southern coast of Iran. The Kokuka Courageous, came from Mesaieed, Qatar, and Jubail, Saudi Arabia, carrying methanol, a chemical compound used in a variety of products, Refinitiv said.

Iran earlier denied involvement via a statement from its mission to the United Nations. "Kokuka Courageous is adrift without any crew on board", the source said.

The two sides have fought for years through proxy forces in Middle Eastern countries including Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Bahrain.

In Yemen, this conflict has had devastating consequences for more than four years as Saudi and Emirati - backed with USA bombs - forces try to take back control of the nation from Houthi rebels aligned with Iran.

The war of words between Iran and the USA has spiked in recent weeks, with Trump posting strongly-worded tweets in response to perceived threats from Tehran. "Never threaten the United States again!"

The shipping lane is used to move one-fifth of the world's oil supply and is critical to the world's economy.

Iran's navy rescued 44 crew members from the two oil tankers which caught fire after what was reported as an "accident", official news service Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Thursday's attack resembled that of an attack in May targeting four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah.

The attack yesterday has caused crude oil prices to skyrocket.

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