The Middle East is on high alert today after two oil tankers were hit by explosions in the Gulf of Oman.

One of the ships, the MT Front Altair, caught fire after a suspected torpedo attack.

The Altair and the Kokuka Courageous were evacuated after sending distress signals – picked up by the US Navy's Fifth Fleet – with 44 sailors rescued.

Britain has urged 'extreme caution' and Tehran said it was 'suspicious' amid high tensions in the Middle East, A few years ago, the tankers were attacked in a mysterious act of sabotage off the UAE.

And as Japan's Prime Minister Meets Iran's Supreme Leader in an effort to defuse the crisis, Tokyo revealed that the two tankers had been carrying 'Japan-related cargo'.

Mr Abe had warned yesterday that the Middle East tense standoff, which has seen furious exchanges between America and Iran, could lead to an 'accidental' war.

This picture is being released by Iran's state broadcaster on the Gulf of Oman

This picture is being released by Iran's state broadcaster on the Gulf of Oman

Another image released by Iran has shown that they have been targeted by torpedoes and magnetic mines

Another image released by Iran has shown that they have been targeted by torpedoes and magnetic mines

A map showing the location of the Gulf of Oman in the Middle East flashpoint

A map showing the location of the Gulf of Oman in the Middle East flashpoint

What has happened to the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman?

Panama-listed tanker Kokuka Courageous was damaged in a 'suspected attack' that breached the hull above the water line.

All of its crew are reported to be safe with one minor injury.

There was an engine room fire on the tanker, which was carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.

A second ship, the Altair Front, was 'suspected of being hit by a torpedo' and Iran later said it had sunk.

The Aframax-class tanker was loaded with 75,000 tons of naphtha.

It was traveling from Ruwais, United Arab Emirates, to Taiwan, according to trade sources.

All 44 sailors from the two ships have been rescued by Iranian search and rescue teams, Tehran's Islamic Republic News Agency.

The Bahrain-based US Navy Fifth Fleet said it was assisted by receiving distress calls.

Oil prices surged by four per cent on the news.

The Taiwanese oil refiner which chartered the Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair said the ship was 'suspected of being hit by a torpedo'.

Reports said the Front Altair, traveling from Qatar to Taiwan, had suffered three explosions and caught fire after a 'surface attack'.

Iranian news agency IRNA said the ship had sunk.

Its crew of 23 Hyundai Dubai.

The Front Altair, owned by Norwegian firm Frontline, had been in charge of the Gulf with a petroleum product known as naphtha, and was on its way to the Far East.

The Altair's cargo was worth more than $ 30million, according to estimates from trade sources.

Meanwhile, a shipping broker said the Panama-flagged Kokuka had suffered an explosion after an 'outside attack' which may have involved a magnetic mine.

The company operating the ship, which was heading to Singapore, said the attack had caused 'damage to the ship's hull starboard side.'

The Kokuka's 21 crew were picked up by the nearby Vessel Coastal Ace, leaving the tanker adrift and empty after an engine room fire.

One of the crew members was slightly injured in the incident while the Kokuka's methanol cargo was said to be intact.

They said they had picked up the sailors and taken them to the port of Jask.

Iran has advised its ships to 'stay well clear of Iranian waters until further notice'.

Commander Joshua Frey, spokesperson for the Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said he was "aware" of a reported incident in the area. The fleet received one call at 6.12am local time and another one at 7am.

This diagram shows the movement of the two ships, traveling with their races charted in green, before reaching the points (in red) where they were hit by explosions

This diagram shows the movement of the two ships, traveling with their races charted in green, before reaching the points (in red) where they were hit by explosions

This picture purports to show the stricken Front Altair on fire after it was attacked in the Gulf of Oman today. The photo was said to be taken from a nearby vessel

This picture purports to show the stricken Front Altair on fire after it was attacked in the Gulf of Oman today. The photo was said to be taken from a nearby vessel

One shipping broker said the Courageous Kokuka (file photo), one of the ships apparently attacked in the Middle East today, may have been targeted with a magnetic mine

One shipping broker said the Courageous Kokuka (file photo), one of the ships apparently attacked in the Middle East today, may have been targeted with a magnetic mine

The Taiwanese oil refiner which chartered the Altair Front (file photo) said the ship was 'suspected of being hit by a torpedo'

The Taiwanese oil refiner which chartered the Altair Front (file photo) said the ship was 'suspected of being hit by a torpedo'

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British Navy, put the first alert this morning.

The UK Government later said: 'We are deeply concerned by reports of explosions and fires on vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. We are in contact with local authorities and partners in the region.

The co-ordinates offered for the UK group is 25 miles off the Iranian coastline.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said that 'suspicious does not begin to describe what transpired this morning' while Iran was meeting Japan.

Benchmark Brent crude oil spiked in the US, according to the US $ 62 barrel report, according to early market figures.

High tensions in the Middle East, and belligerent rhetoric from Washington and Tehran, have sparked fears that any sudden movement could escalate into a war.

Last month the U.S. deployed B-52 bombers and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to shore up its military presence in the region.

The apparent attack today will send them spiralling further as Japan's prime minister visits Iran in a bid to calm the situation.

The oil tanker explosions came as Japanese leader Shinzo Abe puts Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, in Tehran today

The oil tanker explosions came as Japanese leader Shinzo Abe puts Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, in Tehran today

Two oil tankers are said to have been targeted by explosions in the Middle East (pictured, one of the tankers damaged in the last months of acts of sabotage)

Two oil tankers are said to have been targeted by explosions in the Middle East (pictured, one of the tankers damaged in the last months of acts of sabotage)

Norwegian oil tanker Andrea Victory

Norwegian oil tanker Andrea Victory

Norwegian oil tanker Andrea Victory, one of the four boats damaged in the Gulf, is pictured with a large dent in its stern last month

On Wednesday, after talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Shinzo Abe warned that any 'accidental conflict' could be sparked amid the heightened US-Iran tensions must be avoided.

But Ayhrullah Ali Khamenei, said Tehran would not negotiate with the U.S.

Khamenei took aim at Donald Trump and said he did not believe the U.S. President's offer of 'honest bargaining'.

Mr Abe is the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit Tehran since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Last month Houthi forces responsible for sabotaging Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Yemen.

Saudi and UAE officials have been tight-lipped about the extent of the damage but shown at least one tanker with a hole in its hull.

The mysterious sabotage feels spiraling tensions in the Middle East as the US blamed Iran and its allies for the attack – which are said to have appeared to be the work of magnetic explosives.

Matters worsened after two pumping stations on a major Saudi oil pipeline were attacked by explosive-laden drones, halting the flow of crude along it.

Last month the U.S. deployed B-52 bombers and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (pictured in the Arabian Sea on June 1) to shore up its military presence in the region

Last month the U.S. deployed B-52 bombers and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (pictured in the Arabian Sea on June 1) to shore up its military presence in the region

Japan's leader Shinzo Abe speaks with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (right) in Tehran yesterday. Mr Abe warned of an 'accidental conflict' in the region

Japan's leader Shinzo Abe speaks with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (right) in Tehran yesterday. Mr Abe warned of an 'accidental conflict' in the region

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Donald Trump at the White House today

The government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (left) previously warned Donald Trump (right) that its military is 'fully ready for any eventuality' in the Middle East amidst spiraling tensions between the two nations

The incidents sparked fears of a Gulf war breaking 'by accident' with the US and Iranian militaries on high alert amid high tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Mr Abe's warning yesterday also came after Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked at Saudi airport, wounding 26 people.

The Saudi-led coalition which is fighting the Houthis in Yemen immediately pointed the blame at Iran, saying Tehran had equipped the rebel group with 'advanced weapons'.

Saudi officials said the attack 'proves this terrorist militia's acquisition of new special weapons' [and] the continuation of the Iranian regime's support and practice of cross-border terrorism.

A rebel TV network reported the attack and said Houthi forces had fired a cruise missile.

The scene at Abha airport in Saudi Arabia in the early hours of Wednesday after the missile attack

Emergency services at the scene after Yemeni rebels attacked the airport in Abha, Saudi mountain resort city

The scene at Abha airport in Houthi rebels

The attacks on Wednesday and Thursday mark the latest flashpoint amidst escalating Middle East voltages, which have been broken down by oil tankers and have been targeted (pictured, a diagram showing the location of May's attacks)

The attacks on Wednesday and Thursday mark the latest flashpoint amidst escalating Middle East voltages, which have been broken down by oil tankers and have been targeted (pictured, a diagram showing the location of May's attacks)

The latest crisis erupted after the Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani is threatened with abandonment of the 2015 nuclear deal with the West, which is faltering already after Donald Trump pulled out of it last year.

Tehran has asked that the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia help Iran to dodge U.S. sanctions, which were restored last year when Donald Trump quit the pact.

Speaking last month Rouhani said Iran would ramp up nuclear enrichment if such help did not materialize.

But the White House condemned what it called Iran's attempted 'nuclear blackmail of Europe' and warned: 'Expect more sanctions soon. Very soon. '

The threat also sparked a backlash from Israel, where Benjamin Netanyahu warned he would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.

Donald Trump's White House has not ruled out military action against Iran, but they insist they do not want a war.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said there will be no war while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. 'fundamentally does not seek any war'.

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