Mine explodes, damages oil tanker off Saudi coast
A mine in the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia near Yemen exploded and damaged an oil tanker on Wednesday, authorities said, the latest incident targeting the kingdom amid its long war against Yemen's Houthi rebels.
The blast happened early on Wednesday and struck the MT Agrari, a Maltese-flagged, Greek-managed oil tanker near Shuqaiq in southwestern Saudi Arabia.
“Their vessel was attacked by an unknown source,” a statement from the Agrari's operators said. “The Agrari was struck about 1 meter above the waterline and has suffered a breach. It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries.”
The ship was still floating off the coast and had been boarded by Saudi officials, the company said. Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the incident.
Ambrey, a British security firm, reported the blast and attributed it to a mine. It said the Agrari had cargo from Rotterdam, Netherlands, that it had discharged at the Shuqaiq Steam Power Plant.
“The explosion took place in port limits and punctured the hull of the vessel,” Ambrey said.
The explosion comes after a cruise missile fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels struck an oil facility in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition reported on Tuesday that it removed and destroyed five Iranian-made naval mines planted by the Houthis in the southern Red Sea, condemning the attempted attacks as posing “a serious threat to maritime security in the Bab al-Mandab strait.”
A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Iranian-backed Houthis since March 2015. Houthi military officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The US Navy's 5th Fleet, responsible for patrolling the waterways of the Middle East, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for both cargo and the world's energy supplies.