Two crew members were killed in an attack on an Israeli oil tanker, according to authorities. This is the first death in the Arabian Sea after years of attacks on shipping in the area.
The raid on Thursday night’s Liberian-flagged tanker Mercer Street, which took place at midnight, was not immediately claimed by anyone. A U.S. official stated that it appeared that a suicide drone was used in Thursday’s attack. This raises the possibility of a government or militia group being behind it. Israeli officials claimed that Iran was responsible for the attack, but they did not provide any evidence.
According to a London-based ship management firm, the U.S. Navy was quick to respond to the incident and was soon escorting the tanker into safe harbor.
This assault was the most severe maritime violence in region attacks on shipping since 2019. The attacks were blamed by Israel, the U.S. and other countries on the heels of the collapse of Iran’s nuclear agreement with the world powers. Iran appears to be ready to adopt a tougher approach to the West as it prepares to install a hard-line proponent of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Al Khamenei in the role of president next week.
Thursday night’s attack targeted the tanker located northeast of the Omani Island of Masirah. It was more than 300 km (185 miles) southwest of Muscat, Oman’s capital.
Zodiac Maritime in London, which is part of Israeli billionaire Eyalofer’s Zodiac Group said that the attack resulted in the deaths of two crew members. One was from the United Kingdom, the other was from Romania. They were not named and it did not describe the incident. It stated that it did not believe any other crew members were injured.
Later, the U.K. government confirmed that a British national had died after an accident on a tanker off Oman’s coast.
Zodiac Maritime stated that the vessel was “in the northern Indian Ocean, travelling from Dar es Salaam (Dar es Salaam) to Fujairah without any cargo onboard”, naming ports in Tanzanian and United Arab Emirates.
MarineTraffic.com satellite tracking data showed that the vessel was close to the scene of the attack as reported by British officials. The ship’s last signal came Friday morning.
Zodiac Maritime identified the Mercer Street’s Japanese owners, but did not name them. The vessel’s ultimate owner was identified by Lloyd’s List, a shipping authority. It belongs to Taihei Kaiun Co. in Tokyo.
Zodiac Maritime reported late Friday that the tanker was under the command of its crew, “to a safe place with a U.S. Naval escort.” Zodiac Maritime did not provide further details. The U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, which patrols Mideast waters, didn’t respond to a request.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, British military, said that an investigation was being conducted into the attack and that coalition forces were participating.
The Associated Press was informed by a U.S. official that an attack seemed to have been perpetrated by a drone that could not be tracked down and that other drones were involved. Official said that it was not immediately clear who started the attack, but declined to give more details.
Israeli officials spoke similarly on condition that they remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak to the media. They blamed Tehran for this attack and stated that Israel’s “campaign to (Iran) continue”
Iran is Israel’s biggest threat. This is based on Tehran’s anti-Israeli rhetoric and support for militant groups.
These remarks were made after a previous report by Dryad Global, a private maritime intelligence company, referred to a drone sighting that involved the vessel before the attack. Iran and Yemen’s Tehran-backed Houthi rebels used suicide drones in the past. These unmanned aircraft are loaded with explosives that explode on impact with a target.
Separately, the Saudi-led military alliance fighting the rebel Houthis of Yemen claimed Friday that it stopped an “enemy drone attack” on a Saudi merchant vessel. Saudi Arabia’s state TV did not provide further details. The coalition blamed Iran-backed Houthis, claiming they threatened maritime security in the Red Sea near the critical Bab al-Mandeb Strait. This strait is used to transport oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe and goods from Asia to Europe.
Ambrey, a British maritime security company, said that one of its employees was killed in the attack on Mercer Street. The tanker’s crew member also died. According to Ambrey, the intelligence company said that it is working with authorities and providing support for the victims’ family at this very sad time.
Jalina Porter, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson, extended condolences to the United States and stated that Washington was “deeply disturbed by the reports” and “closely monitoring the situation.” Eri Kaneko, United Nations associate spokesperson, said that “this latest incident indicates the increased need” to protect seafarers.
Officials from Omani did not respond to inquiries for comment. The Sultanate is located on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It lies along important shipping routes for cargo and fuel moving through the Strait of Hormuz.
Israel didn’t publicly admit to the attack. Other Israel-linked ships have been targeted in recent months as well amid a shadow war between the two nations, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.
Israel has been accused of a series major attacks on Iran’s nuclear program. Also, Iran saw its largest warship recently sink under mysterious circumstances in the nearby Gulf of Oman.
Thursday’s attack occurs amid increased tensions about Iran’s crumbling nuclear agreement and as negotiations to restore the accord are stuck in Vienna. A year ago, Iran was accused of carrying out a series of attacks on ships. This attack occurred after Trump unilaterally pulled America from the agreement in 2018.
Iranian media reported on the attack, but didn’t offer any more information. The attack occurred the night after U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken, speaking in Kuwait, warned Iran that negotiations in Vienna regarding the nuclear agreement “cannot continue indefinitely.”
This is the second attack on a ship linked to Ofer in July. According to the U.S. Maritime Administration, in July, the Liberian flagged container ship CSAV Tyndall experienced an unexplained explosion while it was in the northern Indian Ocean.