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Explosion strikes ship off Saudi Arabia

An explosion has rocked a ship off Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jiddah on the Red Sea after being hit by “an external source”, a shipping company says.

The Singapore-flagged BW Rhine saw all 22 sailors on board escape without injury, the BW Group said on Monday. The company warned it was possible some oil leaked out from the site of the blast.

The kingdom did not immediately acknowledge the blast, which struck off a crucial port and distribution centre for its oil trade.

It comes after a mine attack last month that damaged a tanker off Saudi Arabia that authorities blamed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO), an organisation under Britain’s Royal Navy, said the blast happened on Sunday, without elaborating. It urged ships in the area to exercise caution and said investigations were ongoing.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run media did not acknowledge the explosion. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The co-ordinates offered by the UKMTO put the blast just southwest of the port near anchorage for ships in the area. At least two oil tankers were known to be in that area, according to MarineTraffic.com: the Desert Rose and Al Amal Al Saudi, or the Hope of Saudi. Owners for the ships could not be immediately contacted.

Not only does the apparent explosion follow last month’s mine blast, another mysterious attack targeted a cargo ship off the small port city of Nishtun in Yemen’s far east earlier this month.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have used sea mines before in their long war against a Saudi-led coalition. However, the Houthis have not commented last month’s attack.

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