Vessel catches fire in tense waters, off UAE coast

Vessel catches fire in tense waters, off UAE coast
Vessel catches fire in tense waters, off UAE coast

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - A vessel in the Persian Gulf caught fire on Wednesday evening, prompting a warning from British naval officials to "exercise extreme caution" amid fears of a renewal of last year's tanker attacks in the flashpoint region.

The United Kingdom's Maritime Trade Operations said the fire struck a vessel northwest of Sharjah, an Emirati sheikhdom. It offered no further information about the vessel.

An unverified video shared on social media showed a pillar of smoke ascending from a vessel purported to be an oil tanker off the coast of Sharjah. Later posts identified the vessel as a Norwegian heavy load carrier.

Officials with the US military similarly said they knew of the fire, but had no further information.

The UAE did not immediately acknowledge the fire and officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The blaze prompted speculation on social media of renewed attacks on oil vessels in the Persian Gulf, mirroring last year's repeated sabotage attacks on tankers as tensions between Washington and Tehran soared.

There is no evidence pointing to a sabotage incident at this point in time.

The blaze comes at another time of heightened tensions in the region after the US killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of the foreign operations arms for Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iran later retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US troops, injuring dozens of personnel.

The US blames Iran for planting mines that exploded against tankers last year near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20 percent of all oil passes.

Iran denied being involved, though it did seize oil tankers and shoot down a US military surveillance drone around that time. 

Tehran is also accused of executing a drone and missile attacks on two key oil facilities run by Saudi state oil giant in September last year.

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