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Two killed as tanker linked to Israeli billionaire targeted off Oman

AP
Filed on July 31, 2021 | Last updated on July 31, 2021 at 12.05 am
Liberian-flagged tanker Mercer Street. — AP file

US, Israel say Iranian drone attacked the Liberian-flagged ship


An attack on an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire killed two crew members off Oman in the Arabian Sea, authorities said on Friday, marking the first fatalities after years of assaults targeting shipping in the region.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the Thursday night raid on the Liberian-flagged tanker Mercer Street. However, a US official said it appears a so-called suicide drone was used in the attack, raising the possibility that a government or a militia group was behind it. An Israeli security official alleged, without providing evidence, that an Iranian drone had attacked the ship.

The US Navy rushed to the scene following the attack and was escorting the tanker to a safe harbour, a London-based ship management company said on Friday.

The assault represented the worst-known maritime violence so far in regional attacks on shipping since 2019. The US, Israel and others have blamed the attacks on Iran amid the unravelling of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The attack on Thursday night targeted the tanker just northeast of the Omani island of Masirah, over 300km southeast of Oman’s capital, Muscat.

London-based Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, said the attack killed two crew members, one from the UK and the other from Romania.

It did not name them, nor did it describe what happened in the assault. It said it believed no other crew members on board were harmed.

Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com showed the vessel had been near where British officials said the attack occurred. However, the last signal the ship sent came early Friday morning.

Zodiac Maritime described the Mercer Street’s owners as Japanese, without naming them. Shipping authority Lloyd’s List identified the vessel’s ultimate owner as Taihei Kaiun Co., which belongs to the Tokyo-based Nippon Yusen Group.

British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said an investigation was underway into the attack and that coalition forces were taking part.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, said that the attack appeared to have been carried out by a “one-way” drone and that other drones took part. The official said it wasn’t immediately known who launched the attack and declined to elaborate.

The Israeli official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, blamed Iran for the attack and confirmed other public details of the incident.





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