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Iran oil tanker "probably" hit by missile attack off Saudi Arabia, Iranian media say

Iran claims oil tanker hit by two missiles

Tehran, Iran — Two rockets struck an Iranian tanker traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia on Friday, Iran's official state-run media said. 

The hull of the tanker "Sabiti" was hit by suspected missiles about 60 miles off the coast, French news agency AFP quoted Iran's state-owned National Iranian Tanker Company as saying. The statement, carried by Iran's state-run IRNA news agency, said two separate explosions were "probably caused by missile strikes."  

The Reuters news agency later reported, however, that the National Iranian Tanker Company had denied suggesting missiles hit its ship. 

Iran's state television said the explosions damaged two storerooms aboard the tanker and caused oil to leak into the Red Sea near the Saudi port city of Jiddah. Iranian media later said the leak was under control.    

There was no word from Saudi Arabia on the reported attack and Saudi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Oil prices spiked by 2% after the incident — the latest in the region amid months of heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S. If it is confirmed to be an act of aggression, it is "highly likely to be part of the wider narrative of deteriorating relations between Saudi and the U.S. and Iran," private maritime security firm Dryad Maritime warned. 

"It is likely that the region ... will face another period of increasing maritime threats, as the Iranian and Saudi geopolitical stand-off continues," it added.

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A 2006 file photo shows the Iranian oil tanker Sabiti in the Suez Canal. The tanker is owned by Iran's state-run National Iranian Tanker Company. Patrick Lawson/MarineTraffic.com

The reported attack comes after a series of attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in recent months. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have blamed those attacks on Iran, but Tehran has denied any involvement.

Friday's incident could push tensions between Iran and the U.S. even higher, more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions now crushing Iran's economy.

Lt. Pete Pagano, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet overseeing the Mideast, said authorities there were "aware of reports of this incident," but declined to comment further.  

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