(CNN)The attack on two tankers in a vital Gulf of Oman waterway Thursday comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran in the oil-rich region and raises concerns of a potential conflict in the Middle East.
How the Oman tanker attack played out
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quick to point the finger at Iran, saying his assessment was "based on intelligence." While Iran denied involvement, the US military on Thursday released a video that it said showed an Iranian navy boat removing an unexploded mine attached to the hull of one of the tankers in an apparent attempt to recover evidence of its participation.
On Friday, however, the Japanese shipping company that owns one of the tankers said it did not believe its ship was attacked by a mine.
The incident bears similarities to an attack on May 12 when four oil tankers were targeted off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman.
Like Thursday's attack, that incident took place near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route that has been the focal point of regional tensions for decades. About 30% of the world's sea-borne crude oil passes through the strategic choke point, making it a flashpoint for political and economic friction.
Here's how the attacks played out.
On May 12, four commercial oil tankers were targeted near the strategic Emirati port of Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman, in what the UAE described as a "sabotage attack."
One was flying a UAE flag, and another the Norwegian flag. The other two were owned by Saudi Arabia, which described the incident as a threat to the security of global oil supplies.
The US blamed Iran for the attack, with US national security adviser John Bolton saying, "I think it is clear these (attacks) were naval mines almost certainly from Iran." He did not offer evidence that Tehran was responsible.
Iran denounced the attack and denied involvement. But the incident came as tensions between the US and its Gulf allies were ramping up amid deteriorating relations.
Days before the attack, the US Maritime Administration issued an advisory warning commercial shipping vessels that Iran or its proxies could be targeting commercial vessels and oil production infrastructure.
The US had also recently deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Strait of Hormuz in response to a "number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran, a US official with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN at the time.
Following the attack, President Donald Trump approved sending an additional 1,500 US troops to the Middle East as part of a "mostly protective" effort to deter Iranian threats.
Weeks before, Trump had announced that the US would formally designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran's most powerful military institution, a terrorist organization.
The incidents come as Iran is promising to restart elements of its nuclear program, following the US's withdrawal from the nuclear pact last year.
It also comes as Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to fight a deadly proxy war in Yemen. In recent years, Hout