The US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet is assisting two tankers in the Gulf of Oman after receiving distress calls from the vessels amid a “reported attack”.
“US naval forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12am local time and a second one at 7:00am,” the fleet said in a statement issued on Thursday. “US Navy ships are in the area and are rendering assistance.”
The statement came after the UK’s Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy, put out an alert earlier on Thursday claiming an unspecified incident had taken place in the area. It did not elaborate further but said it was investigating the incident and urged “extreme caution” amid heightened United States-Iran tensions.
The Reuters news agency, citing four shipping and trade sources, reported two tankers were evacuated following an unspecified incident. The ships’ crews were unharmed, according to Reuters.
The sources identified the tankers as the Marshal Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous.
Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm said it was investigating reports the Front Altair was “on fire and adrift”. It did not offer a cause for the incident.
Iranian media reported, without offering any evidence, that there had been an explosion in the area targeting oil tankers.
Thursday’s maritime alert came after attacks last month on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
US National Security Adviser John Bolton said Iran was likely behind the May 12 incidents, without offering evidence.
The UAE, meanwhile, claimed the preliminary findings of a probe into the attacks revealed they were part of a “coordinated” operation likely carried out by a state actor, but stopped short of pinning the blame on any specific country.
Iran has denied being involved in the incidents.__Al Jazeera