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Missile attack suspected after Iranian oil tanker explosion, state-owned firm says

The reports come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S., and its ally Saudi Arabia, after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's national oil company said two explosions hit one of its tankers 60 miles from the Saudi port city of Jiddah on Friday, ratcheting up tension in the volatile region.

An explosion set the vessel on fire and caused heavy damage to its tanks, with oil spilling into the Red Sea, according to Iran's state-run news agency (IRNA) and Iran's Students News Agency (ISNA).

NBC News is attempting to independently verify the reports.

Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, described the incident as an "attack" carried out by those committing "dangerous adventurism," according to The Associated Press.

A spokesperson for Iran's National Oil Company — a government-owned firm run by the Petroleum Ministry — told NBC News that the first explosion hit the tanker's hull at around 5 a.m. (10 p.m.), with a second one striking within 30 minutes. The company said it was still trying to determine the cause but suspected a missile attack.

IRNA, which reported that the ship was hit by missiles, said that all crew on board were safe and the vessel was in a stable condition.

The agency did not say whom Iranian officials suspect of launching the alleged projectiles.

The reports come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S., and its ally Saudi Arabia, after President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal — triggering Iran to start rolling back its commitments to the agreement.

Earlier this year, the U.S. accused Iran of attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a stretch of water that separates Oman and the United Arab Emirates from Iran. Tehran has denied it was behind the attacks.

The report also follows strikes on a key Saudi oil site in September which the U.S. also blamed on Iran. Terhan also denied being responsible for these attacks, although Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed them.

Ali Arouzi and Amin Hossein Khodadadi reported from Tehran, Saphora Smith reported from London.