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24 Dec, 2023 08:15

Pentagon accuses Tehran of attack on oil tanker near India

A British security firm has claimed the Chem Pluto is Israel-affiliated vessel
Pentagon accuses Tehran of attack on oil tanker near India

The Pentagon has accused Iran of orchestrating a drone attack on an oil tanker that took place in the Indian Ocean on Saturday. The strike on the ship resulted in no casualties and no serious damage.

In a statement to Reuters on Sunday, a spokesman for the US Defense Department claimed that Chem Pluto, a “Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated” chemical tanker was hit “by a one-way attack drone fired from Iran” some 200 nautical miles (370km) off the coast of India. Iranian officials have yet to comment on the allegation.

The Indian Coast Guard said that there had been no loss of life among the 21 crew members, adding that they had managed to douse the fire on board after what it described as a “suspected drone strike.”

British maritime security firm Ambrey claimed that the vessel was “Israel-affiliated,” without elaborating the link, and that the tanker had been en route from Saudi Arabia to India. The attack resulted in the ship sustaining “structural damage” and “some water… taken onboard,” the company stated.

This latest incident comes a week after Houthi rebels based in Yemen, who effectively rule the country, vowed to attack ships linked to Israel that attempt to pass through the Gulf of Aden into the Red Sea, in response to IDF attacks on Gaza. 

Israel launched a military operation in the enclave after the Palestinian armed group Hamas launched a raid into the country in early October, with fighting since claiming the lives of at least 1,200 Israelis and 20,000 Palestinians.

The threat to shipping reportedly forced thousands of vessels to re-route around Africa, adding weeks to their journeys, rather than risking an attack.

The US has previously alleged that Iran is “deeply involved” in Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, claiming that Tehran has provided the rebels with drones, missiles, and intelligence. Iran has denied the allegation, insisting that “resistance groups” are acting independently and “not taking orders from Tehran to confront the war crimes and genocide committed by Israel.”

In response to the Houthi strikes, the US and several NATO allies have deployed a joint naval task force to patrol the Red Sea, shooting down numerous Yemeni drones. The rebels, however, have vowed to continue attacking Israeli-linked ships, and said any Western strikes will not go unanswered.