US govt blames Iran for tanker attack, prepares for response

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Zodiac Maritime, a London-based firm owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, said its oil tanker Mercer Street was attacked by drones, reports Asian Lite News

The US has blamed Iran for carrying out last week’s deadly drone attack on an oil tanker in the north Arabian Sea, saying “an appropriate response” is forthcoming.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the State Department said: “Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive UAVs, a lethal capability it is increasingly employing throughout the region.

“There is no justification for this attack, which follows a pattern of attacks and other belligerent behaviour. These actions threaten freedom of navigation through this crucial waterway, international shipping and commerce, and the lives of those on the vessels involved.

“We are working with our partners to consider our next steps and consulting with governments inside the region and beyond on an appropriate response, which will be forthcoming.”

Zodiac Maritime, a London-based firm owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, said on July 30 that its oil tanker Mercer Street was attacked a day earlier.

The two dead crew members were from Romania and Britain.

Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also condemned the attack and said, “We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran. UK assessments have concluded that it is highly likely that Iran attacked the Mv Mercer Street in international waters off Oman on 29 July using one or more Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).”

“The UK condemns the unlawful and callous attack committed on a merchant vessel off the coast of Oman, which killed a British and a Romanian national. Our thoughts are with the friends and family of those killed in the incident,” Raab added.

Also on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett blamed Iran for the attack, saying his country has intelligence evidence of Tehran’s involvement and expects the international community to exert pressure on the Islamic Republic that “made a serious mistake”.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has dismissed the allegation, saying they were “baseless”.

On Sunday, Iran denied involvement, and foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Israel “must stop such baseless accusations”.

“Iran will not hesitate for a moment to defend its… interests and national security,” he told journalists.

Shortly afterwards, Bennett accused Iran of “trying to evade responsibility for the event” in a “cowardly manner”.

“I determine, with absolute certainty, that Iran carried out the attack against the ship,” Bennett said.

“The intelligence evidence for this exists and we expect the international community will make it clear to the Iranian regime that they have made a serious mistake,” he said.

“In any case, we know how to send a message to Iran in our own way.”

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