Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Associated Press)-The U.S. military said on Saturday that U.S. Navy explosives experts believed that the target of the “drone attack” was an oil tanker that was attacked off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, causing it to be on board. Two people died.
The strike on the tanker Mercer Street on Thursday night marked the first deadly attack in the region after years of attacks on commercial shipping in the region, which were related to tensions over Iran’s nuclear agreement. Although no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Israeli officials claimed that Tehran launched a drone attack.
Although Iran did not directly acknowledge the attack, Tehran now seems ready to take a tougher attitude towards the West as the strike took place, because the country is preparing to let the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s hard-line protégé inaugurate. President.
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in the Middle East said in a statement earlier Saturday that the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitchell are escorting Mercer Street to a safe port.
“U.S. Navy explosives experts are on board to ensure that there is no additional danger to the crew and are prepared to support the investigation of the attack,” the 5th Fleet said. “The first signs clearly indicate a (drone) attack.”
The 5th Fleet’s statement did not explain how it determined that the drone caused the damage, although it described that its explosion experts found “clear visual evidence of an attack” on Mercer Street. The US Central Command did not immediately respond to questions about evidence.
Mercer Street is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, which is part of the Zodiac Group of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. The company said that the attack resulted in the death of two crew members, one from the UK and the other from Romania. It did not say their names, nor did it describe what happened during the attack. It said it believed that no other crew members on the ship were harmed.
British maritime security company Ambrey said that the attack on Mercer Street resulted in the death of a team member on board.
Zodiac Maritime said that at the time of the attack, the empty Mercer Street was heading from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. The target of the attack was an oil tanker located in the northeastern part of Masira Island, Oman, more than 300 kilometers (185 miles) southeast of Oman’s capital Muscat. Oman’s official news agency described the area as “beyond the waters of the Oman region” on Friday night and stated that its troops responded to the tanker’s distress signal.
Zodiac Maritime described the owner of Mercer Street as a Japanese, but did not disclose his name. The shipping authority Lloyd’s Register of Shipping identified the ultimate owner of the ship as Taihei Kaiun Co., which is part of the Tokyo-based Nippon Yusen Group.
Israeli officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media blamed Tehran for the attack. They did not provide any evidence to support their claims.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yael Rapid said on Twitter on Friday night that he had a conversation with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab about the attack “needs a severe response”, although he did not Directly blame Iran.
“Iran is not just an Israeli issue, it is also an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability affecting the entire world,” Rapide wrote. “In the face of Iranian terrorism, we must not remain silent, which also undermines the freedom of navigation.”
In recent months, other Israeli-related ships have also become targets. The shadow war between the two countries, Israeli officials blamed the attack on the Islamic Republic.
At the same time, Israel is suspected of participating in a series of major attacks on Iran’s nuclear program. return, Iran recently saw its largest warship mysteriously sink in the nearby Gulf of Oman.
The attack on Thursday came as tensions in the Iranian nuclear agreement increased, and negotiations to reinstate the agreement stalled in Vienna. One year after then President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2018, Iran launched a series of ship attacks suspected to be Iranian.
The attack on Mercer Street also occurred after the US Secretary of State Anthony Brinken gave a speech in Kuwait to warn Iran that negotiations on a nuclear agreement in Vienna “cannot go on indefinitely”.
This is the second time this month that the ship connected to Ofer has clearly become a target. According to the US Maritime Administration, in early July, the container ship CSAV Tyndall, flying the Liberian flag, was linked to Zodiac Maritime and caused an unexplained explosion in the northern Indian Ocean.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.