A ship detained by an Israeli millionaire attacks Oman, killing two


Two crew members were killed off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea in an attack on an oil tanker associated with a billionaire in Dubai-Israel, United Arab Emirates, officials said Friday.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the Thursday night raid on the Liberia-flagged tanker Mercer Street. However, US officials said so-called suicide drones seemed to have been used in the attack, increasing the likelihood that the government or militia groups were behind them. Israeli security officials quoted similar attacks in the past, saying Israel believes Iran is behind the attacks on ships.

A London-based ship management company said the U.S. Navy had rushed to the scene after the attack and escorted tankers to a safe harbor.

This attack represents the least known maritime violence to date in a regional attack on shipping since 2019. The United States, Israel, and others have accused Iran of attacking Iran in unraveling its nuclear deal with Tehran’s world powers. Iran is preparing to take on the hardline protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hamenei next week, so it looks like it is ready to take a tougher approach to the West.

The attack on Thursday night targeted a tanker just northeast of Oman Island on Masirah Island, more than 185 miles southeast of Muscat, the capital of Oman.

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 didn’t name them and didn’t explain what happened in the attack. He believes that no other crew members have been harmed.

The British government later confirmed that the British people had “died after an incident in a tanker off the coast of Oman.”

“At the time of the incident, the ship was in the northern Indian Ocean and was sailing from Dar es Salaam to Fujairah without cargo,” Zodiac Maritime Statement said, naming the ports of Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates. ..

Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com showed that there was a ship near where the British authorities said the attack had occurred. But the last signal the ship sent came early Friday morning.

Zodiac Maritime described the owner of Mercer Street as Japanese without a name. Lloyd’s List of the shipping authorities has identified the ultimate owner of the vessel as Ohira Kaiun Co., Ltd., a member of the Tokyo-based NYK Group.

Late Friday, Zodiac Maritime said the tanker was sailing “in a safe place with US Navy escorts” under the control of her crew. The company did not elaborate. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Middle East, did not respond to requests for comment.

The British Army’s British Maritime Trade operation said the attack was under investigation and Allied forces were involved.

A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation told The Associated Press that the attack appeared to have been carried out by a “one-way” drone, with the participation of other drones. Officials said they did not immediately know who launched the attack and refused to reveal details.

Israeli officials, who spoke similarly on condition of anonymity because the media did not have the authority to brief, blamed Iran for the attack and confirmed other public details of the case. Israel sees Iran as its greatest threat because of Tehran’s hostile rhetoric, its support for anti-Israeli terrorist groups, and its growing influence in the region.

This statement was made after a previous report from private maritime intelligence company Dryad Global referred to sightings of drones involving ships before the attack. The Houthi rebels, backed by Iran and Tehran in Yemen, have adopted suicide drones in the past. This is an unmanned aerial vehicle carrying explosives that explode in the event of a collision with a target.

In another development, a Saudi-led military coalition fighting the rebel Houthi in Yemen claimed to have blocked an attempt to attack an “enemy drone” on Saudi merchant ships late Friday, Saudi Arabia’s state affairs said. The television reported without providing details. The coalition has accused the Iran-backed Houthi of threatening maritime security in the southern Red Sea near the important Bab Armandeb Strait. This strait will be used to transport oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe and goods from Asia to Europe.

British maritime security firm Ambrey said the attack on Mercer Street killed one of its team members along with a member of the tanker’s crew. Intelligence agencies said they were working with authorities to provide assistance to the victims’ families “at this incredibly sad time.”

Omani authorities did not respond to requests for comment. The Sultan is located on the eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and follows an important transportation route for cargo and energy through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Israel did not publicly acknowledge the attack. Other Israeli-linked vessels have also been targeted in recent months during the shadow war between the two countries, with Israeli authorities blaming the Islamic Republic for attacks.

Meanwhile, Israel is suspected of a series of large-scale attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear program. Iran also recently saw the largest warship sank in the nearby Gulf of Oman under mysterious circumstances.

The attack on Thursday took place as tensions over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal increased and negotiations over the restoration of the deal were stalled in Vienna. A series of ship attacks suspected of being carried out by Iran began a year after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2018.

Iranian media quoted foreign reports on Thursday’s attack, but provided nothing more. The attack took place the night after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who spoke from Kuwait, warned Iran that he “cannot continue indefinitely” to discuss the nuclear deal in Vienna.

This is the second time this month that a ship associated with an offer has been targeted. In early July, a Liberia-flagged vessel, the CSAV Tyndall, once tied to Zodiac Maritime, was hit by an unexplained explosion while in the northern Indian Ocean, according to the US Maritime Bureau.

John Gambrel