The UAE said on Sunday four commercial vessels were sabotaged near Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz.
It did not describe the nature of the attack or say who was behind it.
The UAE on Monday identified the vessels as two crude oil tankers owned by Saudi shipping firm Bahri, a UAE-flagged fuel bunker barge and a Norwegian-registered oil products tanker.
The owner of the Norwegian vessel, Thome Ship Management, said the vessel was “struck by an unknown object”.
Footage seen by Reuters showed a hole in the hull at the waterline with the metal torn open inwards.
A Reuters witness said divers were inspecting the ships. The UAE’s state news agency said Fujairah port was operating normally.
Iran, which is embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over sanctions and the US military presence in the region, moved to distance itself on Monday.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry called the incidents “worrisome and dreadful” and called for an investigation.
A senior Iranian lawmaker said “saboteurs from a third country” could be behind it, after saying on Sunday the incident showed the security of Gulf states was fragile.
The United States has limited information about who may have been responsible for the attacks, said a US official familiar with American intelligence on the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shared information on “escalating” threats from Iran during meetings with EU counterparts and the head of NATO in Brussels, the US special representative for Iran Brian Hook told reporters.
Hook declined to say whether he believed Iran played a role in the tanker attack or if Pompeo blamed Iran. He said the UAE had requested US help in the investigation and Washington was very glad to provide this.
The US Maritime Administration said in an advisory on Sunday that incidents off Fujairah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, had not been confirmed, and urged caution.
The Maritime Administration had said earlier this month that US commercial ships including oil tankers sailing through Middle East waterways could be targeted by Iran in one of the threats to US interests posed by Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the UAE incident “has a negative impact on maritime transportation security” and asked regional countries to be “vigilant against destabilising plots of foreign agents”, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
Ahead of his talks with Pompeo in Brussels, Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt warned of the risks of “a conflict happening by accident” with an unintended escalation between Washington and Tehran over an unravelling nuclear deal.
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