Joshua Roberts – Reuters
The Pentagon is seen from the air on March 3, 2022.
A chemical tanker operating in the Indian Ocean was attacked by an Iranian drone on Saturday, the seventh Iranian attack on commercial shipping since 2021, a US Defense Department official said.
“The ship CHEM PLUTO, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned and Dutch-operated chemical tanker, was attacked at approximately 10 a.m. local time (6 a.m. GMT) today in the Indian Ocean, 200 nautical miles off the coast of the United States. India by drone A one-way attack launched from Iran.”
The one-way attack drone is designed to impact its target rather than return to its source. The defense official said: “There were no casualties and the fire on board the tanker was extinguished.”
“There were no US Navy ships in the vicinity,” the statement said, adding that Naval Forces Central Command had been in contact with the damaged ship.
The Indian Coast Guard said there were 20 Indian and one Vietnamese crew members on board the ship at the time of the attack. But she added that no injuries were reported.
It said it sent a patrol ship and a maritime surveillance plane after making contact with the ship.
After conducting a damage assessment and repairing its power generation systems, the MV Chem Pluto began making its way towards Mumbai while being escorted by the patrol vessel, the Coast Guard said.
The ship departed Saudi Arabia on December 19 and was expected to arrive in the southwestern Indian port city of Mangalore on December 25.
The strike in the Indian Ocean comes with support from Iran Houthi rebels In Yemen it launched More than 100 attacks Against about a dozen merchant and merchant ships that have crossed the Red Sea over the past four weeks, CNN previously reported.
US Central Command reported more such incidents in a statement on social media on Saturday. A crude oil tanker was attacked by a one-way drone on Saturday. Central Command said there were no casualties. The command said a separate chemical tanker operating in the southern Red Sea reported an “imminent accident” on Saturday from a one-way drone.
The statement also said that “two anti-ship ballistic missiles” were fired into the southern Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen but did not hit any ships, and the naval destroyer USS Laboon also shot down four drones. They were heading towards her.
While there have been repeated attacks originating in Yemen, Saturday's strike in the Indian Ocean that used a drone that the United States says was launched from Iran may represent a new escalation in tensions.
The United States on Friday released newly declassified intelligence indicating that Iran is “deeply involved in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told CNN.
Watson said newly declassified intelligence indicates that “Iranian support throughout the Gaza crisis enabled the Houthis to launch attacks against Israel and naval targets, although Iran has often deferred operational decision-making authority to the Houthis.”
This week, the United States launched Operation Prosperity Sentinel, a naval coalition aimed at enhancing security in the southern Red Sea. The Pentagon said Thursday that more than 20 countries have signed on to the initiative so far.
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