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US Navy says drone strike hit oil tanker off Oman, killing 2

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — U.S. Navy explosive consultants consider a “drone strike” focused an oil tanker that got here below assault off the coast of Oman within the Arabian Sea, killing two on board, the American navy mentioned Saturday.

The strike Thursday evening on the oil tanker Mercer Avenue marks the first-known deadly assault after years of assaults on industrial delivery within the area linked to tensions with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal. Whereas nobody has claimed duty for the assault, Israeli officers alleged Tehran launched the drone strike.

Whereas Iran didn’t instantly acknowledge the assault, the strike comes as Tehran now seems poised to take a good harder method with the West because the nation prepares to inaugurate a hard-line protégé of Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as president.

The American nuclear-powered plane service USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher now escort the Mercer Avenue because it heads to a secure port, the U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based fifth Fleet mentioned in a press release early Saturday.

“U.S. Navy explosives consultants are aboard to make sure there isn’t any further hazard to the crew, and are ready to help an investigation into the assault,” the fifth Fleet mentioned. “Preliminary indications clearly level to a (drone)-style assault.”

The fifth Fleet assertion didn’t clarify the way it decided a drone triggered the harm, though it described its explosive consultants discovering “clear visible proof that an assault had occurred” aboard the Mercer Avenue. The U.S. navy’s Central Command didn’t instantly reply to a questions on the proof.

The Mercer Avenue is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, a part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. The agency mentioned the assault killed two crew members, one from the UK and the opposite from Romania. It didn’t identify them, nor did it describe what occurred within the assault. It mentioned it believed no different crew members on board have been harmed.

The Mercer Avenue, empty of cargo, had been on its means from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, on the time of the assault, Zodiac Maritime mentioned.

Zodiac Maritime described the Mercer Avenue’s homeowners as Japanese, with out naming them. Transport authority Lloyd’s Listing recognized the vessel’s final proprietor as Taihei Kaiun Co., which belongs to the Tokyo-based Nippon Yusen Group.

Israeli officers, who spoke on situation of anonymity as they weren’t approved to speak to the media, blamed Tehran for the assault. They provided no proof to help their declare.

Different Israel-linked ships have been focused in latest months as effectively amid a shadow struggle between the 2 nations, with Israeli officers blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.

Israel in the meantime has been suspected in a series of main assaults concentrating on Iran’s nuclear program. Additionally, Iran noticed its largest warship just lately sink below mysterious circumstances within the close by Gulf of Oman.

Thursday’s assault 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 assaults suspected to have been carried out by Iran started a 12 months after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018.

The assault on the Mercer Avenue additionally got here the evening after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, talking from Kuwait, warned Iran that talks in Vienna over the nuclear deal “can not go on indefinitely.”

That is the second time this month a ship tied to Ofer apparently has been focused. In early July, the Liberian-flagged container ship CSAV Tyndall, as soon as tied to Zodiac Maritime, suffered an unexplained explosion on board whereas within the northern Indian Ocean, in keeping with the U.S. Maritime Administration.

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Comply with Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.



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