Reuters August 8, 2010 1:04 AM
Militants attacked a Japanese supertanker with explosives near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most
important shipping routes, the United Arab Emirates state news agency said on Friday.
The crew of the 333-metre-long M. Star reported an explosion shortly after midnight on July 28, injuring one seaman, though causing no oil spill or disruption to shipping in the strategic waterway, bordered by Iran, Oman, and the UAE.
"An examination carried out by specialized teams has confirmed that the tanker has been the subject of a terrorist attack," state news agency WAM said, quoting an unidentified coast guard source.
"UAE explosives experts who collected and examined samples found a dent on the starboard side above the water line and remains of homemade explosives on the hull," the source said.
Two days ago, a militant group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the incident.
Security analysts based in the Gulf, some previously skeptical of suggestions the ship was attacked, said they believed the state news agency report.
"The UAE has no interest in portraying this as a terrorist attack," said Theodore Karasik, a security analyst of Dubai-based INEGMA. "So saying that it is, that's significant."
A spokeswoman for shipowner Mitsui O.S.K. said the company could not confirm details of the WAM report. The investigation on the tanker is still continuing, and while we are looking at all possibilities, the company has not heard anything that will help determine the cause of the damage," she said.
The company's president, Koichi Muto, said he did not rule out the possibility of an attack, according to the Nikkei business daily.
Oil prices were not affected and there were no indications of shipping being more carefully patrolled in the Strait of Hormuz, oil traders said.
"No shipowners are panicking," a trader, who asked not to be named, said.
However, analysts said if a strike were confirmed, security for shipping would have to be increased. "If the attack on the M. Star is not a one-time event, but others follow, it does place additional stress on both the shipping industry and the navies of the world," said J. Peter Pham, a strategic adviser to U.S. and European governments.
The narrow Strait of Hormuz handles 40 per cent of the world's seaborne oil and is patrolled by U.S. and other warships.
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