Iran or Iranian-backed proxies used explosives to blast large holes in four ships moored off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a U.S. official said Monday.
The official – who spoke on condition of anonymity – said each vessel sustained a 5- to 10-foot hole below or at the water line, and the belief is that the holes were caused by explosive charges.
The incident comes after months of increasing diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran, which the U.S. accuses of threatening American interests and allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The team of U.S. military experts was sent to investigate the damages at the request of the UAE. American officials have not provided any details about what exactly happened or any proof as yet about the possible Iranian involvement in the explosions beyond making the accusation.
The claim of Iranian involvement comes after Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that two of its oil tankers suffered “significant damage” from sabotage attacks off the coast of the UAE near the Strait of Hormuz. The attacks reportedly also damaged two ships from other nations, one of them registered to Norway, as Breitbart News reported.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the sabotage was intended to “undermine the freedom of maritime navigation, and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world.”
The minister’s statement stressed the responsibility of the international community to “protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, to mitigate against the adverse consequences of such incidents on energy markets, and the danger they pose to the global economy.”
Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the head of Iran’s parliamentary national security committee, rejected accusations of complicity in the attacks by suggesting “saboteurs from a third country” were responsible, implying the ships were attacked by American agents seeking to create an excuse for military action against Iran.
“The explosions of Fujairah port could have been carried out by saboteurs from a third country who seek instability in the region,” Falahatpisheh said.
The U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and America has moved additional ships and aircraft into the region.
AP contributed to this report