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Iran tanker hit by suspected missile strikes near Saudi port

Blast caused by 'terrorists' spilt oil into the Red Sea around 100km from Jeddah, Iranian news agency says
Refinitiv ship tracking data gave the status of the Sabiti as 'underway using engine' (via social media)

An Iranian oil tanker has been hit by suspected missiles off the Saudi port city of Jeddah, Iranian state media reported on Friday, adding that experts suspected it was a "terrorist attack".

The tanker, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), suffered heavy damage following the attack in the Red Sea around 100km from Jeddah, unnamed sources told Iran's Students News Agency ISNA.

"Experts believe it was a terrorist attack," a source told ISNA.

"Those behind the attack are responsible for the consequences of this dangerous adventure, including the dangerous environmental pollution caused," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told state TV.

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An earlier oil leak had been "stopped and the situation is under control," the Iranian state news agency IRNA said.

In a statement carried by Iranian media, the NITC identified the ship as the Sabiti.

The NITC said that the hull of the vessel was hit by two separate explosions at 5am and 5.20am and that the blasts were "probably caused by missile strikes".

"All the ship's crew are safe and the ship is stable too," said the NITC, adding those on board were trying to repair the damage.

Iran said it would change the route of the tanker following the attack, ISNA reported.

"No help was offered to assist by any country," an official from the NITC said, according to ISNA.

The Reuters news agency reported that the tanker had set its destination point as Larak, a small Iranian island off the coast of Iran.

Refinitiv ship tracking data gave the status of the Sabiti as "underway using engine".

Regional tensions

Tensions have been high between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia since an attack on the kingdom's two oil facilities on 14 September that caused fires and damage, shutting down 5.7 million barrels per day of production - more than five percent of global oil supply.

Yemen's Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but a US official said they originated from southwestern Iran, while Middle East Eye reported they had been undertaken by Iranian drones which flew from southern Iraq.

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Iran, which supports the Houthis in Yemen’s war, has denied any involvement.

Friday's reported attack comes after the US accused Iran in recent months of attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Gulf, something denied by Tehran.

The incident could push tensions between Iran and the US even higher, more than a year after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from a nuclear deal with Tehran and imposed crushing sanctions on Iran’s economy.

The attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran's shooting down of a US military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East followed Trump's decision.

Oil prices jumped two percent after reports of Friday's tanker explosion, with benchmark Brent and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures rising more than $1 a barrel. 

There was no immediate acknowledgement from Saudi Arabia about the explosion.