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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, an oil tanker approaches to the new Jetty during the launch of the new $650 million oil facility in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates said Sunday, May 12, 2019 that four commercial ships near Fujairah "were subjected to sabotage operations" after false reports circulated in Lebanese and Iranian media outlets saying there had been explosions at the Fujairah port. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Saudi Arabia's energy minister said early today that two Saudi oil tankers were targeted in a "sabotage attack" off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and sustained "significant damage."

The reported incident comes as the United States has warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as America is deploying forces to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.

In comments carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Khalid Al-Falih said the two tankers were targeted off the coast of Fujairah. The UAE had earlier reported that four commercial ships were targeted.

He said one tanker was en route to the kingdom to be loaded with Saudi crude oil to send to the United States. He did not identify the tankers.

He said: "Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels."

The announcement came shortly after the U.S. issued a new warning to sailors over alleged "acts of sabotage" targeting four commercial ships amid heightened regional tensions between America and Iran.

The UAE's regional allies earlier condemned Sunday's reported sabotage of the four ships off the coast of Fujairah, which came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at the city's port.

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

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.

Underlying the regional risk, the general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council described the alleged sabotage as a "serious escalation" in an overnight statement.

"Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger," Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said. Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen's internationally recognized government similarly condemned the alleged sabotage.

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, did not immediately offer comment on the incident.

Earlier 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 semiofficial media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved in the incident.

The Associated Press, after speaking to UAE officials and local witnesses, found the report about explosions at the port to be unsubstantiated.

Publicly available satellite images of the area taken Sunday showed no smoke or fire.

Information for this article was contributed by Aya Batrawy in Dubai and Bassem Mroue of The Associated Press.

A Section on 05/13/2019

Print Headline: Saudis: 2 oil tankers sabotaged near UAE

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