UNITED NATIONS - The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway said Thursday that a preliminary investigation into a coordinated attack on four of their oil tankers in an Emirati port last month was likely carried out by a state actor.
In a joint statement, they said limpet mines were used in the May 12 coordinated attacks, which left large holes in the hulls of the four tankers, but did not cause more extensive damage or oil spills. Limpets are a type of naval mine that attach to their target with magnets.
“It appears most likely that the mines were placed on the vessels by divers deployed from fast boats,” the statement said. “While investigations are still ongoing, these facts are strong indications that the four attacks were part of a sophisticated and coordinated operation carried out by an actor with significant operational capacity, most likely a state actor.”
Findings to presented to Security Council
The three countries presented their initial findings to the U.N. Security Council in an informal meeting Thursday to discuss what they see as a threat to international commercial navigation and the security of global energy supplies.
While they stressed that their investigation is still in the preliminary stage and did not jointly point a finger at any country in their statement, Saudi Arabian U.N. Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi said there was a “preponderance of evidence” pointing in one direction.
“We believe that the responsibility for this action lies on the shoulders of Iran,” al-Mouallimi told a small group of reporters. “We have no hesitation in making this statement, we believe there is enough evidence to demonstrate that.”
He said the attacks follow a “pattern of regular behavior of the Iran regime in terms of spreading acts of terrorism, sabotaging and causing havoc in many parts of the world.”
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton shared a similar assessment when he was in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi last month, telling reporters that it was “clear that Iran is behind” the attack.
Iran has denied any involvement.
Quick, not random attacks
The four blasts occurred within less than an hour on the two Saudi vessels, and one each from the UAE and Norway. The ships were within UAE territorial waters off the port of Fujairah, just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a busy shipping lane through which a large portion of the world’s oil supply passes.
The tankers were targeted from among nearly 200 other vessels at anchor off of Fujairah on that day. One of the vessels was several kilometers away at the opposite end of the anchorage area, an indication that the targets were not randomly chosen.
The UAE is leading the ongoing investigation and said it will share its preliminary findings with the London-based International Maritime Organization.