US Military Says It Is Assisting Tanker That Was Attacked Off Oman

By Reuters
Reuters
Reuters
July 31, 2021 Updated: July 31, 2021

DUBAI—The U.S. Navy is assisting an Israeli-managed petroleum products tanker that was fatally attacked on Thursday off the coast of Oman, the U.S. military said on Saturday, adding the ship was most likely hit by a drone strike.

The Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned vessel, is currently being escorted by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

“U.S. Navy explosives experts are aboard to ensure there is no additional danger to the crew, and are prepared to support an investigation into the attack,” said the Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.

“Initial indications clearly point to a UAV-style (drone) attack,” it added.

Israel’s foreign minister blamed Iran on Friday for the attack, which killed two crewmen, a British and a Romanian.

U.S. and European sources familiar with intelligence reporting said on Friday Iran was their leading suspect for the incident, which a U.S. defense official said appeared to have been carried out by a drone, but stressed their governments were seeking conclusive evidence.

usa-assist-israeli-tanker-oman
An Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, prepares equipment in response to a call for assistance from the Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime, in the Arabian Sea, on July 30, 2021. (U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters)

Al Alam TV, the Iranian government’s Arabic-language television network, cited unnamed sources as saying the attack on the ship came in response to a suspected, unspecified Israeli attack on Dabaa airport in Syria.

There was no immediate official reaction from Iran to the accusation that it may have been responsible.

The vessel is managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime. The company said on Friday the vessel was sailing under the control of its crew and own power to a safe location with a U.S. naval escort.

Iran and Israel have traded accusations of attacking each other’s vessels in recent months.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides maritime security information, said the vessel was about 152 nautical miles northeast of the Omani port of Duqm when it was attacked.

According to Refinitiv ship tracking, the medium-size tanker was headed for Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

By Maher Chmaytelli

Reuters
Reuters