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Iranian Media Insists Explosions, Fires At UAE Oil Port Covered Up

An oil tanker approaches to the new Jetty during the launch of the new $650 million oil facility in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 21, 2016(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Iranian news agencies, including the official government run IRNA, insist that a huge explosion took place in the oil port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, May 12.

This version of the event first emerged Sunday morning by Al Mayadeen TV, an Arabic language station based in Lebanon and financed by Iran.

Fars news agency run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards immediately picked up the story, but UAE did not confirm it all Sunday. In the evening, the UAE foreign ministry finally released a statement saying four commercial vessels suffered “sabotage” on the open seas, not too far from Fujairah.

On Monday morning, Saudi Arabia announced that two of its tankers were damaged in an act of sabotage, without providing more details.

IRNA screenshot of a top story about attack on ships in UAE. May 12, 2019
IRNA screenshot of a top story about attack on ships in UAE. May 12, 2019

Concurrent with the release of the Saudi statement, IRNA started to speak about an explosion at the Fujairah port – not on open seas, providing details based on Al Mayadeen reports. The title said, “Explosions in Fujairah and the nightmare of the owners of skyscrapers in southern Persian Gulf”, a reference to UAE. The article also made references to UAE's attempt to cover up the real magnitude of the incident. The photo IRNA used was an old image of a tanker burning, since there are no images of Sunday's incident.

The screenshot of the edited version of IRNA's story. May 13, 2019.
The screenshot of the edited version of IRNA's story. May 13, 2019.

Monday morning, the IRNA story was edited, changing the provocative title and replacing it with a more benign sentence. The old photo of the burning tanker was also changed.

The IRNA reports speak about huge fires at the port, seven damaged tankers, names of the vessels, U.S. and French warplanes taking to the air and multiple explosions.

However, confirmed details about Sunday’s incident remain scarce and it is not clear where exactly the attack against commercial vessels took place, what was the nature of the attack, were explosives used and any images showing the aftermath.

However, the al Mayadeen report about explosions at Fujairah might not be totally fabricated.

First, the Saudi statement said that its tankers were attacked within the commercial zone of the port. This means the ships were not at open sea as the UAE statement had claimed on Sunday.

Second, a simple Google search on Sunday showed users and a few journalists that the Fujairah airport was closed and roads to the port were also blocked.

The question is why major international news agencies were silent on the incident until the UAE issued a statement, but even then there was apparently no serious investigation of what had exactly happened. Wire reports basically repeated statements, without reporters on the ground attempting to verify what had happened.

The West has also remained silent, although what appears to be a well-planned act of "sabotage" raises the question if a state actor was behind the conspiracy.

At the time of this publication, more than 30 hours have passed since the incident but facts and details remain obscure.