The US has blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers near the Persian Gulf.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington that the attacks on the ships are part of a ‘campaign’ of ‘escalating tension’ by Iran and a threat to international peace and security.
The conclusion was based on intelligence, type of weapons used and level of expertise needed, he said.
He said the United States will defend its forces and interests in the region but gave no specifics about any plans and he took no questions.
Tehran has denied responsibility for the alleged torpedo attack.
The two oil tankers were left adrift in the Gulf of Oman today, driving up oil prices and stoking fears of a new confrontation between Iran and the United States.
The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed.
Washington accused Tehran of being behind a similar attack on May 12 on four tankers in the same area, a vital shipping route through which much of the world’s oil passes.
One of the tankers – the MT Front Altair – was engulfed in flames, while 44 crew members were evacuated from both vessels and taken to an Iranian port.
Japan’s trade ministry said the two vessels were carrying ‘Japan-related cargo’ and all crew members were saved, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on a high-stakes visit in Tehran seeking to ease tensions between Iran and the US.
Benchmark Brent crude oil rose more than four per cent in trading to over $62 (around £48.92) a barrel after reports of the incident.
South Korean firm, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., has confirmed all the 23 crew aboard one of the tanker have been rescued by one of its cargo vessels sailing in the area.
The Seoul-based firm said there were three rounds of explosion sounds at the MT Front Altair before it sent an emergency distress call.
A company statement said its 3,000-ton Hyundai Dubai vessel sent a lifeboat to rescue MT Front Altair’s crew members before embarking them on the cargo vessel.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, run by the British Navy, said the UK and its partners were investigating the incident near the Iranian coast.
An alert was issued on Thursday urging ‘extreme caution’ amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran.
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