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U.S. Says Iranian Drone Behind Tanker Attack in Gulf of Oman

Tanker Pacific Zircon is seen at sea near Isle of Wright, Britain in this undated handout picture. David Potter/Handout via REUTERS

U.S. Says Iranian Drone Behind Tanker Attack in Gulf of Oman

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November 16, 2022

By Daniel Avis, Alex Longley and Anthony Di Paola (Bloomberg) —

The US said an Iranian drone was probably responsible for an attack on an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire on Tuesday night.

“There is no justification for this attack, which is the latest in a pattern of such actions and broader destabilizing activities,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement Wednesday. He said Iran is increasingly using drones “directly and via its proxies throughout the Middle East and proliferating to Russia for use in Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, the company Eastern Pacific Shipping said its ship, MV Pacific Zircon was hit by a projectile about 150 miles (241 kilometers) from the Omani coast at about 7.30 p.m. local time. 

“There are no reports of injuries or pollution,” said Singapore-based Eastern Pacific, which is owned by Israeli businessman Idan Ofer. “All crew are safe and accounted for. There is some minor damage to the vessel’s hull but no spillage of cargo or water ingress.”

Brent crude rose on the news, but later pared gains to trade about $94 a barrel as of 11:55 a.m. in London on Wednesday.

Israel also believes Iran was behind the attack, according to three Israeli officials. One of the officials said Israel believes Iran launched and operated the Shahed-136 drone that carried out the attack against the Liberian-flagged vessel. The Shahed-136 is the same drone that Iran sold to Russia and that’s being used against Ukraine.

There was a spate of shipping attacks in the region in 2021 and the few years before that. Many were blamed on Iran and came amid rising tension between Tehran and the US and Israel.

Sullivan said in his statement that Iran would be held accountable for the attack.

The Pacific Zircon loaded at Kuwait’s Mina Abdullah port on Nov. 6 and sailed for Sohar in Oman, according to ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. It moored at the Omani port and appeared to deliver a small amount of fuel before sailing away and signally Buenos Aires on Nov. 14.

The US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, and the UK’s Maritime Trade Operations, which monitors shipping in the region, said they were aware of a incident in the Gulf of Oman.

The Israeli Defense Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

–With assistance from Alisa Odenheimer, Patrick Sykes and Jennifer Jacobs.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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