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UAE says four ships targeted by ‘sabotage’ off its coast

The reported incident comes as the US warns ships that ‘Iran or its proxies’ could be targeting maritime traffic.

Fishermen cross the sea waters off Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, near the Strait of Hormuz. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
Fishermen cross the sea waters off Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, near the Strait of Hormuz. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)

The United Arab Emirates has said that four commercial ships off its eastern coast “were subjected to sabotage operations,” just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at a nearby Emirati port.

Emirati officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible.

However, the reported incident comes as the US has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.

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The incident happened as America deploys an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.

Tensions have risen in the year since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis.

Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

The statement from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah.

It said it was investigating the incident “in co-operation with local and international bodies”. It said there were “no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels” and “no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel”.

Earlier on Sunday, Lebanon’s pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting “Gulf sources,” falsely reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah’s port.

State and semi-official media in Iran picked up the reports, citing Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved in the incident.

The Associated Press, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the reports about an explosion at the port to be unsubstantiated.

The reported sabotage incident comes after the US Maritime Administration warned last week that Iran could target commercial sea traffic.

“Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against US and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz,” the warning read.

“Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or US military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf.”

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