Briton is one of two crew killed in a suspected Iranian attack on an oil tanker called Mercer Street in the Arabian Sea, authorities claim
- The tanker Mercer Street was targeted north-east of the Omani island of Masirah
- No one immediately claimed responsibility for raid but US and Israel blame Iran
- US official said it appeared ‘suicide drone’ by possible militia used in incident
A Briton was one of two crew killed in a suspected Iranian attack on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, according to authorities.
The tanker Mercer Street, linked to an Israeli billionaire, was targeted north-east of the Omani island of Masirah, 185 miles south-east of the capital Muscat, on Thursday.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the raid. However, the US, Israel and others have blamed the attacks on Iran amid the unravelling of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
A US official said it appeared a ‘suicide drone’ was used in the incident, raising the possibility that a government or a militia group was behind the incident.
Mercer Street off Cape Town, South Africa. The oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire reportedly came under attack off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea
London-based Zodiac Maritime, owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, said two crew members – one a security guard from the UK and the other from Romania – were killed.
It said it believed no one else on board was harmed. The tanker was in the northern Indian Ocean, travelling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates at the time of the incident. United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a Royal Navy warning system for attacks on shipping, said an investigation was under way and that coalition forces were taking part.
A US official said it appeared to have been carried out by a ‘one-way’ drone and other drones took part. The official said it was not immediately known who had launched the attack.
Shipping authority Lloyd’s List identified Mercer Street’s owner as Taihei Kaiun Co, which belongs to the Tokyo-based Nippon Yusen Group. After the incident the tanker was sailing under the control of her crew ‘to a safe location with a US naval escort’, Zodiac Maritime said.
An Israeli official blamed Iran for the attack and confirmed other public details of the incident.
Israel considers Iran to be its biggest threat, citing Tehran’s hostile rhetoric, support for anti-Israeli militant groups and growing influence in the region.
The remarks came after an earlier report from private maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global referred to a drone sighting involving the vessel prior to the attack. Iran and Yemen’s Tehran-backed Houthi rebels have employed ‘suicide’ drones in the past. These are unmanned aircraft loaded with explosives that detonate on impact with a target.
British maritime security firm Ambrey confirmed the attack had killed one of its team members.
It said it was working with authorities and offering support to the victim’s family. Omani officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Other Israeli-linked ships have been targeted in recent months amid a shadow war with Iran, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults
The sultanate sits on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula and is along vital shipping routes for cargo and energy moving through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.
The deaths mark the first fatalities after years of assaults targeting shipping in the region.
Other Israeli-linked ships have been targeted in recent months amid a shadow war with Iran, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.
Israel, meanwhile, has been suspected in a series of major attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran also saw its largest warship recently sink in mysterious circumstances in the nearby Gulf of Oman. Thursday’s attack comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal and as negotiations over restoring the accord have stalled in Vienna.
The series of ship attacks suspected to have been carried out by Iran began a year after then US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018.
Iranian media quoted foreign press reports on Thursday’s attack but did not offer anything more.