Official says tanker hit bomb-carrying drone in Oman

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An oil tanker associated with an Israeli billionaire was attacked by a bomb-laden drone off the coast of Oman amid rising tensions with Iran, an official told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The oil tanker Pacific Zircon struck off the coast of Oman on Tuesday night, said a Middle East-based Pentagon official. He spoke on condition of anonymity, as this official is not authorized to discuss the attack publicly. “We are aware of the incident and are investigating,” the British Maritime and Trade Operations Authority, the British military organization in the region that monitors shipping, told The Associated Press. Eastern Pacific Shipping, a company ultimately owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, said in a statement that the diesel-laden Pacific Zircon was “hit by a projectile” about 150 miles (240 km) off the coast of Oman. We are in communication with the vessel and there are no reports of injuries or contamination. All crew members are safe and accountable,” the company said. “There is minor damage to the hull, but no cargo spilled or flooded.” Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Ministry declined to comment, and oil prices rose slightly as word of the attack spread, with the benchmark Brent crude above $94 a barrel. Suspicion immediately fell on Iran, although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Tehran and Israel have been fighting a shadow war in the wider Middle East for years with drone strikes targeting Israeli-related vessels traveling to the region. The US also blamed Iran for a series of attacks off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2019. At the time, Tehran had begun expanding its nuclear program after the United States unilaterally withdrew from nuclear deals with world powers. In 2021, a suspected Iranian drone strike struck an Israeli-linked oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman, killing two people on board. Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge the attack on Pacific Zircon. It was not immediately clear where the ship was on Wednesday. Satellite tracking data provided by MarineTraffic.com late Tuesday showed the ship went deep into the Arabian Sea after leaving the Omani port of Sohar. After Iran’s nuclear deal was broken, non-proliferation experts warned that the Islamic Republic now has enough enriched uranium to make at least one nuclear weapon. Iran is also now fiercely denouncing its perceived enemies abroad amid months of nationwide protests challenging theocracy. Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, said the attack was “no surprise”. – Iranian nuclear diplomacy and Washington’s decision to press for further sanctions on Iran,” he said. “Since 2019, Iran has continued to respond to new U.S. sanctions with covert military actions in the region,” he said. ”he added. It is a military confrontation that will have more serious consequences for the global energy market.” Doha has good relations with Tehran and shares a large natural gas field with Tehran, but the Israelis are set to enter the tournament. Iran’s national team will face England and the United States in the first leg, two countries that they accuse of fomenting unrest. ___Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.
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