British officials: Tanker on fire in Gulf off Sharjah in UAE

A crude oil tanker in the Persian Gulf has caught fire, prompting a warning from British naval officials to “exercise extreme caution

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A crude oil tanker in the Persian Gulf caught fire Wednesday night, prompting a warning from British naval officials to “exercise extreme caution.”

Emirati officials said they were working to put out the blaze some 21 miles (34 kilometers) off the coast of Sharjah. They identified the ship as the crude oil tanker Zoya 1 and said 16 Indian and Pakistani crew reportedly had been stuck on the vessel for a year, unpaid, trying to come ashore amid a legal dispute over the vessel.

The state-run WAM news agency later described the tanker as unloaded and said its crew had been rescued.

Officials with the U.S. military said they knew of the fire, but had no further information.

The U.S. blames Iran for planting mines that exploded against tankers last year near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes. Iran denied being involved, though it did seize oil tankers and shoot down a U.S. military surveillance drone.