Iran denies tankers attack, terms U.S. accusations 'baseless' as tensions soar

Two oil tankers damaged in Gulf 'attacks' | News

Following the blast, the USA said it has proofs that Iran was behind the attacks while Reuters recently quoted anonymous official mentioning that the video clip clearly shows Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) approaching the vessel and removing the mine.

Tehran has denied responsibility for the 12 May attacks.

Zarif tweeted that "reported attacks on Japan-related" oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman had taken place while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei "for extensive and friendly talks".

The ship's operators offered no immediate explanation on what weapons caused the damage or who used them against the MT Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous. "The supreme leader's government that insulted Japan by attacking a Japanese owned an oil tanker just outside of Iranian waters threatening the lives of the entire crew creating a maritime emergency".

However, Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif hit back, writing on Twitter the U.S. had "immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran-w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence".

The attack made it "abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy - including by @AbeShinzo - and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran".

Iran's mission to the United Nations pushed back, saying: "The US and its regional allies must stop warmongering".

In all, 44 sailors were evacuated from the vessels and the US Navy has assisted amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.

The black-and-white footage, as well as still photographs released by the US military's Central Command, appeared to show the limpet mine on the Kokuka Courageous.

"At 4:10pm local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous", Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the United States military's Central Command, said in a statement. "However, we will defend our interests".

Tensions in the Middle East have escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 multinational nuclear pact with Iran and reimposed sanctions, especially targeting Tehran's oil exports. "However, we will defend our interests".

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He suggested that those flying objects could have been bullets, and called reports of striking a mine "false".

Yemen's Iran-aligned Huthi rebels said they had fired missiles on an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Taiwan's state oil refiner CPC said the Front Altair, owned by Norway's Frontline, was "suspected of being hit by a torpedo" around 0400 GMT carrying a Taiwan-bound cargo of 75,000 tonnes of petrochemical feedstock naphtha, which Refinitiv Eikon data showed had been picked up from Ruwais in the UAE. A short time later, the Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also called for help.

It was being escorted by the U.S. Navy, he said. Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman. The mines disable, but don't sink, a vessel.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said Iranian naval mines were nearly certainly behind those attacks without providing any evidence.

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.

"Both vessels were in worldwide waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls", Captain Urban said in a statement, adding that the crew of the Courageous was rescued by a Dutch tug and later taken aboard the USS Bainbridge.

Hours before the US Central Command provided its evidence to bolster the US accusations, Mr Pompeo pinned the blame at Iran but declined to take questions from reporters.

"Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted", he said Thursday.

The tanker was about 70 nautical miles from the United Arab Emirate's Fujairah and about 14 nautical miles off the coast of Iran.

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