DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — US Navy explosive consultants imagine a “drone strike” focused an oil tanker that got here underneath assault off the coast of Oman within the Arabian Sea, killing two on board, the American navy mentioned Saturday.
The strike Thursday night time on the oil tanker Mercer Road marks the first-known deadly assault after years of assaults on business delivery within the area linked to tensions with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal. Whereas nobody has claimed accountability for the assault, Israeli officers alleged Tehran launched the drone strike.
Whereas Iran didn’t straight acknowledge the assault, the strike comes as Tehran now seems poised to take a good harder strategy with the West because the nation prepares to inaugurate a hard-line protégé of Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as president.
The American nuclear-powered plane service USS Ronald Reagan and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher now escort the Mercer Road because it heads to a secure port, the US Navy’s Mideast-based fifth Fleet mentioned in an announcement early Saturday.
“US Navy explosives consultants are aboard to make sure there is no such thing as a further hazard to the crew, and are ready to assist an investigation into the assault,” the fifth Fleet mentioned. “Preliminary indications clearly level to a (drone)-style assault.”
The fifth Fleet assertion didn’t clarify the way it decided a drone triggered the injury, though it described its explosive consultants discovering “clear visible proof that an assault had occurred” aboard the Mercer Road. The US navy’s Central Command didn’t instantly reply to questions on the proof.
The Mercer Road is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, a part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. The agency mentioned the assault killed two crew members, one from the UK and the opposite from Romania. It didn’t title them, nor did it describe what occurred within the assault. It mentioned it believed no different crew members on board have been harmed.
British maritime safety agency Ambrey mentioned the assault on Mercer Road had killed considered one of its group members on board the vessel.
The Mercer Road, empty of cargo, had been on its manner from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, on the time of the assault, Zodiac Maritime mentioned.
Zodiac Maritime described the Mercer Road’s house owners as Japanese, with out naming them. Delivery authority Lloyd’s Checklist recognized the vessel’s final proprietor as Taihei Kaiun Co., which belongs to the Tokyo-based Nippon Yusen Group.
Israeli officers, who spoke on situation of anonymity as they weren’t licensed to speak to the media, blamed Tehran for the assault. They supplied no proof to assist their declare.
Israeli International Minister Yair Lapid tweeted late Friday that he spoke with British International Secretary Dominic Raab in regards to the “want to reply severely” to the assault, though he stopped wanting straight blaming Iran.
“Iran isn’t just an Israeli downside, however an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that impacts the entire world,” Lapid wrote. “We will by no means stay silent within the face of Iranian terrorism, which additionally harms freedom of navigation.”
Different Israel-linked ships have been focused in current months as properly amid a shadow warfare between the 2 nations, with Israeli officers blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.
Israel in the meantime has been suspected in a collection of main assaults concentrating on Iran’s nuclear program. Additionally, Iran noticed its largest warship not too long ago sink underneath mysterious circumstances within the close by Gulf of Oman.
Thursday’s assault comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal and as negotiations over restoring the accord have stalled in Vienna. The collection of ship assaults suspected to have been carried out by Iran started a yr after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018.
The assault on the Mercer Road additionally got here the night time after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, talking from Kuwait, warned Iran that talks in Vienna over the nuclear deal “can’t go on indefinitely.”
That is the second time this month a ship tied to Ofer apparently has been focused. In early July, the Liberian-flagged container ship CSAV Tyndall, as soon as tied to Zodiac Maritime, suffered an unexplained explosion on board whereas within the northern Indian Ocean, in accordance with the US Maritime Administration.