Official says oil tanker hit by bomb-carrying drone off Oman

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire was hit by a bomb-laden drone off the coast of Oman amid rising tensions with Iran, an official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The attack on the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Circon took place off the coast of Oman on Tuesday night, a Middle East defense official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the attack publicly.

The United Kingdom’s Merchant Marine Operations, the British military body in the region that oversees shipping, told the AP: “We are aware of an incident and are currently investigating it.”

Pacific Zircon is managed by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is ultimately owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.

Eastern Pacific said in a statement that the Zircon Pacific, which was carrying gas and oil, was “hit by a projectile” about 150 miles (240 km) off the coast of Oman.

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“We are in contact with the vessel and there are no reports of damage or contamination. “All crew members are safe and responsible,” the company said. “There was minor damage to the ship’s hull, but no cargo spillage or water ingress.”

Calls to the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi were not returned. Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Ministry declined to comment.

News of the attack caused oil prices to rise slightly, with Brent crude oil above $94 a barrel.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on Iran. Tehran and Israel have been waging a shadow war in the Middle East for yearssome drones have targeted Israeli ships cruising the region.

The US also blamed Iran for a series of attacks off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2019.. After the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal with world powers, Tehran began to intensify its nuclear program.

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In 2021, an Iranian drone struck the Mercer Strait, an oil shipment linked to Israel near Oman.killing two people on board.

The attack on Pacific Zircon was not immediately acknowledged by Iranian state media. The vessel’s whereabouts were unknown Wednesday. Satellite data obtained by MarineTraffic.com late Tuesday showed the ship was located deep in the Arabian Sea after leaving the Omani port of Sohar.

Since the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, non-proliferation experts have warned that the Islamic Republic could have enough enriched uranium to produce at least one nuclear weapon if it chose to.Although Tehran considers its program to be peaceful.

Iran has lashed out at its enemies abroad amid months of protests across the country..

Torbjörn Soltvedt, an analyst at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, said the attack was “not a surprise”.

“The increasing risk of attacks on shipping and energy infrastructure in the region is mainly due to the lack of progress in US-Iran nuclear diplomacy and Washington’s decision to impose further sanctions on Iran,” he said. Since 2019, Iran has been constantly retaliating against new US sanctions and conducting covert military operations in the region.”

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He added: “Not only does the risk of attacks on the region’s energy infrastructure increase, but so does the risk of military conflict with more serious consequences for global energy markets.”

The oil tanker attack happened just days before the start of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Doha has good relations with Tehran, which has huge natural gas reserves, but the Israelis will enter the competition. Iran will also face Britain and the United States in the first round, who have been accused of causing chaos.

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Associated Press writer Tia Goldenberg and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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Follow John Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.



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