Deadly drone attack on tanker exacerbates Iran-Israel maritime tensions

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Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, died Thursday when the tanker Mercer Street was attacked by an armed drone believed to be operated by Iran off the coast of Oman.

While Israel and the United States blame Iran for the attack, Iranian state media said the incident was in retaliation for an airstrike on a military airport in Syria which they accused of being behind Israel.

The Syrian regime is supported by Iranian forces. No Iranian official has commented on the attack, and CNN has contacted Iran’s Foreign Ministry for comment.

The ship was traveling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujariah in the United Arab Emirates with no cargo on board, the ship’s management company said.

It would sail under the Liberian flag, according to the marine traffic monitoring site. The ship is Japanese-owned and managed by Zodiac Maritime, a London-based international management company run by Israeli shipping tycoon Eyal Ofer.

Zodiac also confirmed on Friday that the tanker was under its own power and was moving to a safe location with a US naval escort. US authorities have not specified which port the ship will go to.

With Iran, sometimes the logical explanation is the right one
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A security official familiar with the preliminary investigation said the crew reported hearing sounds of drones followed by explosions and eruptions in the water. The boat then went radio silent.

The boat’s operator and a security element then remained on deck to pilot the vessel and were shot in the attack, they added. The deceased Briton was a member of the security staff, the official said.

A US defense official familiar with the details of the incident said on Friday the tanker was attacked by an armed drone believed to be operated by Iran.

Another official said the United States responded “to an emergency distress call from an apparent UAV-style attack” and that the ship was escorted to port by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the destroyer USS Mitscher.

The crew of the tanker reported that the drone exploded in its super structure on Thursday, the first U.S. official said. They also reported an unsuccessful drone attack attempt earlier today, but said the drone fell into the water.

The US military has long noted that Iran has drones that operate by flying towards targets and exploding on impact.

An official source from the Oman Maritime Security Center told the Omani News Agency on Friday that the incident took place outside Omani waters, the agency said.

Oman sent jets and a Navy vessel to the scene of the attack, and Omani officials said the ship and her crew told them it would continue to sail without the need for assistance, reported the ‘agency.

Deep concerns

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran and follows a series of attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman in recent years, which the United States has blamed on Iran.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the world must stand up to Iran after the incident.

“Iran is not only an Israeli problem but an exporter of terror, destruction and instability which harms the whole world. We must never remain silent in the face of Iranian terrorism, which also undermines freedom of navigation “Lapid said in a statement. Twitter.

Lapid added that he had told his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, that the attack on the ship required a firm response.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was “deeply concerned” by the incident off Oman, in a statement posted on Twitter.

“Our hearts go out to the relatives of the British and Romanian nationals killed in the incident,” the statement said. “Ships must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law,” he added.

Ambrey, the maritime security company which employed the British crew member killed in the attack, also said in a statement that it “is currently working closely with our client and the relevant authorities, while offering all the support. possible to relatives of the victim.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those involved at this incredibly sad time.”

CNN’s Andrew Carey and Amir Tal contributed to this report.

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