An Iranian cargo ship believed to be a base for the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and anchored for years in the Red Sea off Yemen was attacked – Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday.
Iran’s foreign ministry on Wednesday confirmed the attack, saying the MV Saviz was hit with an unknown explosion that caused “minor damage” around 6am local time in the Red Sea on Tuesday, close to the shores of Djibouti.
According to Al Jazeera, Iran’s Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the Saviz is a non-military vessel formally registered with the International Maritime Organisation that acts as Iran’s “logistic station” in the Red Sea, providing anti-pirating services.
“Fortunately no fatalities were incurred due to the incident, and technical evaluations on how the incident occurred and its origins are underway,” he said.
The attack came as Iran and world powers sat down in Vienna for the first talks about the US potentially rejoining Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal, showing that challenges ahead do not rest merely in those negotiations.
The ship’s long presence in the region, repeatedly criticized by Saudi Arabia, has come as the West and United Nations experts say Iran has provided arms and support to Yemen’s Houthi rebels amid that country’s years-long war.
Iran denies arming the Houthis, but components found in the rebels’ weaponry link back to Tehran.
In a state TV statement, an Iranian anchor cited a New York Times story published Wednesday that quoted an anonymous US official telling the newspaper that Israel warned the United States about a planned attack on the vessel.
In a statement, the US military’s Central Command only said it was “aware of media reporting of an incident involving the Saviz in the Red Sea”.
“We can confirm that no US forces were involved in the incident,” the command said. “We have no additional information to provide.”, said Saeed.
In the latest developments, Al Arabiya TV cited unnamed sources as saying the vessel was attacked off the coast of Eritrea and was affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, but provided no evidence to support the assertion.
There was no official Iranian reaction to the incident.
It was the latest in a reported series of attacks on Israeli and Iranian-owned ships since late February in which the two arch-enemies accused each other of responsibility.
The incidents have occurred since US President Joe Biden took office in January with a commitment to rejoin world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran – abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in a move welcomed by Israel – if Tehran returns to full compliance with the deal.
Iran and the United States on Tuesday launched indirect talks in Vienna that included the other powers on ways to revive the deal. Both Iran and the US called the talks “constructive”.