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Oil tanker damaged in mine explosion off Saudi Arabia

The blast happened early on Wednesday and struck the MT Agrari, a Maltese-flagged, Greek-managed oil tanker near Shuqaiq.

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The MT Agrari is seen off the coast of Frederikshavn, Denmark (Morten Weesgaard via AP)

The MT Agrari is seen off the coast of Frederikshavn, Denmark (Morten Weesgaard via AP)

The MT Agrari is seen off the coast of Frederikshavn, Denmark (Morten Weesgaard via AP)

A mine in the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia near Yemen has exploded and damaged an oil tanker, authorities have said.

The blast happened early on Wednesday and struck the MT Agrari, a Maltese-flagged, Greek-managed oil tanker near Shuqaiq.

“Their vessel was attacked by an unknown source,” a statement from the Agrari’s operators said.

“The Agrari was struck about one metre 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.

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(AP)

(AP)

(AP)

It said the Agrari had cargo from the Dutch city of Rotterdam 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.

Saudi state television later aired a report claiming a military coalition led by the kingdom destroyed a bomb-laden Houthi drone boat and that a merchant ship sustained light damage. The report offered no details and it was not immediately clear if the report was the same incident at Shuqaiq.

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 Houthis since March 2015.

A United Nations panel in 2018 found the Houthis used both improvised and what appear to be Iranian-manufactured “bottom” mines, explosives that could be live in the water for as long as a decade.

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“Sea mines are low cost, easy to deploy, tactically very effective, difficult to detect and thus are a potent threat to both naval and commercial vessels,” that report warned. “Relatively small quantities present a threat out of proportion to their numbers.”

Iran has repeatedly denied arming the Houthis, though experts say Iranian weapons ranging from small arms to missiles have been smuggled to the rebels.

The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for both cargo and global energy supplies, making any mining of the area a danger not only to Saudi Arabia but to the rest of the world. Mines can enter the water and then be carried away by the currents, which change by the season in the Red Sea.

The Red Sea has been mined previously. In 1984, some 19 ships reported striking mines there, with only one ever being recovered and disarmed, the UN panel said.

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