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UAE says 4 ships targeted by 'sabotage' off its coast

AP  |  Dubai 

The said Sunday that four commercial ships off its eastern coast "were subjected to operations," just hours after Iranian and Lebanese aired false reports of explosions at a nearby port.

officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the or say who might have been responsible. However, the reported incident comes as the U.S. has warned ships that "or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as is deploying an and bombers to the to counter alleged threats from

Tensions have risen in the year since withdrew the from the 2015 nuclear deal between and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran's economy into crisis. Last week, warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

The statement from the put the ships near the country's territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the It said it was investigating the incident "in cooperation with local and international bodies." It said there were "no or fatalities on board the vessels" and "no spillage of or fuel." The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, did not immediately offer comment on the incident. officials declined to elaborate while their investigation is ongoing.

Earlier Sunday, Lebanon's pro-Iran Al-Mayadeen, quoting "Gulf sources," falsely reported that a series of explosions had struck State and in Iran picked up the reports, citing Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved in the incident.

The Associated Press, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the reports about an explosion at the port to be unsubstantiated.

is located about 140 kilometers (85 miles) from the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all at sea is traded. The facility handles for bunkering and shipping, as well as general and bulk cargo. It is seen as strategically located, serving shipping routes in the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and

The reported incident comes after the warned Thursday that Iran could target commercial sea traffic.

"Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz," the warning read.

"Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the " It's unclear if that is the same perceived threat that prompted the to order the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group and bombers to the region on May 4.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, May 12 2019. 23:56 IST