Two oil tankers reportedly attacked near Strait of Hormuz

Two oil tankers sailing near the contested Strait of Hormuz were reportedly attacked early Thursday, resulting in damage to both vessels.

The Associated Press and CNN reported that the tankers, which were reported to be carrying cargo bound for Japan, suffered damage from explosions that the owner of one ship told CNN was caused "by some sort of shell."

Video posted to Twitter showed one of the vessels ablaze.

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A spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet said that the events were being described as a "reported attack," and that a Navy destroyer had rendered assistance to both ships.

"We are aware of the reported attack on shipping vessels in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local (Bahrain) time and a second one at 7:00 a.m. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) rendered assistance," read a statement on the Navy's website.

The Washington Post reported that both ships' crews were evacuated successfully from their vessels.

“The Kokuka Courageous remains in the area and is not in any danger of sinking. The cargo of methanol is intact,” said a spokesman for BSM Ship Management, which owns one of the two vessels attacked, according to CNBC.

Brent crude prices, the global benchmark for oil futures, jumped 3 percent on news of the attacks, according to multiple news sites.

Iran's foreign minister said that calling the attacks "suspicious" did not even "begin to describe what likely transpired this morning."

"Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while PM @AbeShinzo was meeting with Ayatollah @khamenei_ir for extensive and friendly talk," Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

 

The explosions come as Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, visited Iran this week for high-stakes negotiations with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over trade as well as U.S.-Iran relations.

The incident follows a similar one last month in which two Saudi oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates were sabotaged in attacks that caused “significant damage” to the ships.

Tensions have risen significantly recently between the U.S. and Iran as the Trump administration has ordered a large task force to the region with the goal of countering Iran's influence across the Middle East.

More than 1,500 troops and a carrier strike group have been sent to the region, while President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE has maintained publicly that he does not want to see the U.S. go to war with Iran.

--Updated at 8:35 a.m.