Thursday, January 20

Two tankers catch fire after suspected Gulf of Oman attacks

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DUBAI: Suspected attacks left two tankers in flames in the waters of the Gulf of Oman yesterday, sending world oil prices soaring as Iran helped rescue stricken crew members.

The mystery incident, the second involving shipping in the strategic sea lane in only a few weeks, came amid spiralling tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has pointed the finger at Iran over earlier tanker attacks in May.

The Norwegian Maritime Authority said three explosions were Thursday reported on board the Norwegian-owned tanker Front Altair after it was ‘attacked’ along with the Singapore-owned ship Kokuka Courageous.

Iran said its navy had rescued 44 crew members after the two vessels, which were carrying highly inflammable material, caught fire.

TV images showed huge, thick plumes of smoke and fire billowing from one of the tankers as it lay out to sea.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke of “reported attacks” as Japan’s prime minister held talks in Tehran.

“Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” Zarif tweeted.

The US Fifth Fleet said its warships had received distress calls from both vessels in a “reported attack”.

Iranian state media said the first incident occurred on board the Front Altair at 8.50am 25 nautical miles off Bandar-e-Jask in southern Iran.

The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, a 111,000-tonne vessel, was carrying a cargo of ethanol from Qatar to Taiwan, official news agency IRNA reported. — AFP