A US-linked oil tanker has exploded and burst into flames after reportedly being hit by a torpedo in the Gulf of Oman today.
The Front Altair, a Marshall Islands-flagged ship, was one of the two vessels caught in a crossfire and forced to evacuate this morning in the troubled region near Iran, according to reports.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British Navy, urged "extreme caution" and said it was investigating the incident.
Iranian media earlier reported that two explosions had erupted on the ships but did not elaborate.
One of the vessels has been identified as the Front Altair, which had set sail from the UAE port of Ruwais on Tuesday and was due to arrive in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on June 30, Bloomberg reports.
The tanker, which had been loaded with oil in Abu Dhabi is on fire, an Emirati official said.
It was built in 2016 and belongs to the Marshall Islands – a United States associated state in the Pacific Ocean.
According to Reuters, the second ship is the Kokuka Courageous – a Panama-flagged vessel.
It had set sail from Al Jubail in Saudi Arabia on June 10 and was due to reach Singapore by June 22.
Oil prices soared by 3.5 percent following news of the explosions, according to reports.
The US Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it is aware of a "reported attack" in the area and is investigating.
A statement said: "US naval forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6.12 am local time and a second one at 7.00 am.
"US Navy ships are in the area and are rendering assistance."
This comes after the US claimed Iran used explosives to blow huge holes in four ships – including two Saudi oil tankers – anchored in the Persian Gulf last month.
The ships reportedly had ruptures measuring up to ten foot across in their hulls as a result of the May 12 sabotage attacks.
They were targeted near the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates – with one of the tankers due to be loaded with Saudi crude oil bound for the US.
A Washington-based official told the Associated Press that an American military team's initial assessment indicated Iran or its allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships.
Iran strongly denies involvement in the attacks.
A huge US naval presence has built up in the Gulf over recent weeks amid a fevered standoff between Washington and Tehran.
US intelligence revealed Iran was on the verge of carrying out offensive action to disrupt and attack American and partner interests in the region.
It led to the deployment of US aircraft carriers, Patriot missiles and B52 bombers over recent days.
The general-secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council described the sabotage as a "serious escalation" in an overnight statement.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman called the incidents near the coast of Fujairah on May 12 "worrisome and dreadful" and asked for an investigation into the matter.
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