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Oil tanker’s crew land in Dubai after Gulf of Oman attack

The Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair caught fire on Thursday, sending a thick cloud of black smoke visible from space.

An oil tanker on fire in the Sea of Oman (ISNA/AP)
An oil tanker on fire in the Sea of Oman (ISNA/AP)

Crew members of the Norwegian-owned oil tanker that was attacked in the Gulf of Oman have landed in Dubai after two days in Iran.

Associated Press journalists saw the crew members of the MT Front Altair after their Iran Air flight from Bandar Abbas, Iran, landed in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

The Front Altair caught fire in the attack on Thursday, sending a thick cloud of black smoke visible even by satellite from space.

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Mariners from the MT Front Altair arrive at Dubai International Airport (Jon Gambrell/AP)

The US has blamed Iran for the attack, saying it suspects another limpet mine attack on oil tankers by Iran.

Tehran has denied being involved and accused the US of promoting an “Iranophobic” campaign against it.

The suspected attacks occurred at dawn Thursday about 25 miles off the southern coast of Iran.

The Front Altair, loaded with naphtha from the United Arab Emirates, radioed for help as its cargo of flammable chemicals caught fire.

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USS Bainbridge crew members provide aid to mariners on the Kokuka Courageous (US Navy/AP)

The Kokuka Courageous, carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, called for help a short time later.

The US Navy sent the USS Bainbridge, which picked up 21 mariners from the Kokuka Courageous.

Its crew members stayed overnight on the destroyer, returning to their vessel on Friday to help in it being towed.

Iran ended up taking the 23 mariners from the Front Altair.

They initially ended up in the port city of Jask before being taken to Bandar Abbas.

Its crew comprised 11 Russian, 11 Filipinos and one Georgian.

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The Kokuka Courageous, one of two oil tankers targeted in the Gulf of Oman, was taken to the United Arab Emirates’ eastern coast on Saturday (Jon Gambrell/AP)

On Saturday, the Kokuka Courageous arrived off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE.

That was the site of a similar suspected limpet mine attack in May on four other oil tankers.

Tensions have risen as Iran appears poised to break the nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from last year.

In the deal, Tehran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions.

Now, Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels if European nations do not offer it new terms to the deal by July 7.

Already, Iran says it quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium.

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A false-colour image from the European Commission’s Sentinel-2 satellite shows the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair ablaze with smoke rising from it in the Gulf of Oman (European Commission/AP)

Meanwhile, US sanctions have cut off opportunities for Iran to trade its excess uranium and heavy water abroad, putting Tehran on course to violate terms of the nuclear deal regardless.

In May, the US rushed an aircraft carrier strike group and other military assets to the region in response to what it said were threats from Iran.

Iran previously used mines against oil tankers in 1987 and 1988 in the Tanker War when the US Navy escorted ships through the region.

The price of a barrel of benchmark Brent crude spiked as much as 4% immediately after the attack on Thursday, showing how critical the region remains to the global economy.

PA

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