San Francisco Chronicle

Attack kills 2 on tanker tied to Israeli billionair­e

- By Jon Gambrell Jon Gambrell is an Associated Press writer.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An attack on an oil tanker linked to an Israeli tycoon killed two crew members off Oman in the Arabian Sea, authoritie­s said Friday, marking the first fatalities after years of assaults targeting shipping in the region.

No one immediatel­y claimed responsibi­lity for the Thursday night raid on the Liberianfl­agged tanker Mercer Street. However, a U.S. official said it appears a drone was used in the attack, raising the possibilit­y that a government or a militia group was behind it.

The U.S. Navy rushed to the scene following the attack and was escorting the tanker to a safe harbor.

The assault represente­d the worstknown maritime violence so far in regional attacks on shipping since 2019. The U.S., Israel and others have blamed the attacks on Iran amid the unraveling of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Iran now already appears poised to take an even tougher approach with the West as the country prepares to inaugurate a hardline protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as president next week.

The attack Thursday night targeted the tanker just northeast of the Omani island of Masirah, 185 miles southeast of Oman’s capital of Muscat.

Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionair­e Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, said the attack killed two crew members, one from the United Kingdom and the other from Romania.

“At the time of the incident the vessel was in the northern Indian Ocean, traveling from Dar es Salaam to Fujairah with no cargo onboard,” the statement from Zodiac Maritime said, naming ports in Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates respective­ly.

Late Friday, Zodiac Maritime said the tanker was sailing under the control of its crew “to a safe location with a U.S. naval escort.” The company did not elaborate.

British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said that an investigat­ion was under way into the attack and that coalition forces were taking part.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the attack appeared to have been carried out by a “oneway” drone and other drones took part. The official said it wasn’t immediatel­y known who launched the attack.

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