US issues new warning to ships after ‘sabotage’ off UAE

Clay Curtis
May 13, 2019

On Sunday, the UAE said that four merchant vessels had been targeted in "acts of sabotage" in its territorial waters, thus brushing off previous reports by the Lebanon-based broadcaster al-Mayadeen, which said that several large blasts had occurred in the port of Fujairah.

"Two Saudi oil tankers were subjected to a sabotage attack in the exclusive economic zone of the United Arab Emirates, off the coast of the Emirate of Fujairah, while on their way to cross into the Arabian Gulf", SPA cited Khalid al-Falih as saying.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday expressed "regret" for the sabotage of commercial vessels and asked for more details "on the exact extent of of this incident". The UEA said: "the concerned authorities have taken all necessary measures, and are investigating the incident in cooperation with local and worldwide bodies".

The US has recently been escalating pressure on Iran in the area, dispatching a carrier strike group with a bomber force as a "warning".

In recent weeks, the stretch of water off the Oman coast has become a flashpoint in heightened tensions between the United States and Iran that have threatened to boil over since President Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions which have crippled the Iranian economy.

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The UAE did deny Iranian and Lebanese news reports of explosions at the port of Fujairah and added "media outlets must be responsible and rely on official sources". It said it was investigating "in cooperation with local and global bodies".

Several powerful explosions on Sunday hit the port of Fujairah in UAE following a huge fire that engulfed at least seven oil tankers, state media reported. Its strategical location serves as shipping routes for the Gulf countries, the Indian and Africa.

Sunday's incident comes after the U.S. Maritime Administration, a division of the US Transportation Department, warned Thursday that Iran could target commercial sea traffic.

"Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or United States military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait or the Persian Gulf". The ministry statement was tweeted by the official news agency WAM.

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