RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia said Monday its forces had captured and were questioning three members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard who were intending to carry out an attack on a major offshore oilfield in the Persian Gulf.
Saudi Arabia's Information Ministry said in a statement the three were onboard a boat carrying a large number of explosives headed toward the Marjan oil field, located off the kingdom's eastern shores between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The statement said the three were detained on Friday and accused them of intending to carry out a terrorist operation in Saudi territorial waters.
Earlier in the day, a statement published on the state-run Saudi Press Agency said Saudi naval forces had disrupted a planned attack by three boats "bearing red and white flags" that raced toward its Marjan offshore oil field. It said sailors fired warning shots and captured one of the boats while two others escaped in the assault. It said the captured boat "was loaded with weapons for (a) subversive purpose."
The announcement comes after Iranian state television accused Saudi Arabia's coast guard of killing an Iranian fisherman on Friday. Several Iranian news websites also reported that two Iranian boats were shot at over the weekend as they approached a Saudi oil rig.
Majid Aghababaei, an Interior Ministry official in Iran, said the three men detained are fishermen from Iran's port city of Bushehr and blamed choppy Gulf waters for the boat's divergence. In remarks to Iran's ILNA news agency, he said there is no proof they are military personnel.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have long been strained with each country backing opposing sides of the war in Syria and other conflicts in the region.
Saudi Arabia and Iran broke off diplomatic ties with one another last year after the kingdom executed a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric, sparking backlash among Iranians who ransacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.
More recently, a pair of deadly attacks in Tehran claimed by the Islamic State group further inflamed tensions between the regional rivals. Iran has indirectly blamed Saudi Arabia for the attacks and has vowed revenge. On Sunday evening, Iran's Revolutionary Guard launched ballistic missiles at IS targets in Syria for the first time in that country's six-year-long war.
Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.