An oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire has reportedly been attacked off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, authorities said, killing two crew members, one from the UK and one from Romania.
Thursday night’s attack targeted the Liberian-flagged tanker Mercer Street, northeast of the Omani island of Masirah. The location is about 185 miles (300 km) southeast of Oman’s capital Muscat.
Israeli officials did not immediately acknowledge the attack, which came amid heightened tensions with Iran as negotiations remain stalled on Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Other ships linked to Israel have also been attacked in recent months amid a shadow war between the two nations, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the attacks. Meanwhile, Israel is suspected of targeting Iran’s nuclear program in a series of major attacks.
London-based Zodiac Maritime and part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, released a statement saying the ship was the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street and was Japanese-owned. The British Ministry of Defense had previously misidentified the ship’s owners.
Zodiac Maritime described the attack as “piracy”, without elaborating. He later said the attack killed two crew members, one from the UK and one from Romania, and said the company was not aware of damage to any other personnel.
“At the time of the incident, the ship was in the northern Indian Ocean, traveling from Dar es Salaam to Fujairah with no cargo on board,” said the statement from Zodiac Maritime, which names ports in Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates, respectively.
Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com showed the ship had been close to where British officials said the attack occurred. However, the last signal the ship sent came early Friday morning.
A brief opening statement from the British Army’s UK Maritime Trade Operations said an investigation into the incident was underway.
The statement did not elaborate, although it said it suspected the attack did not involve hacking. Earlier Thursday, the British military group had said it was investigating another unexplained incident in the same area, but did not elaborate.
Oman did not acknowledge an attack and officials did not respond to requests for comment. The United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Middle East, did not respond to a request for comment.
The incident comes amid heightened tensions over the tattered Iran nuclear deal and when negotiations to restore the deal have stalled in Vienna. Since then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018, there have been a number of attacks on ships in the region that are suspected of being carried out by Tehran.
Iranian media cited foreign reports about the attack, but did not elaborate. The attack came the night after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking from Kuwait, warned Iran speaking in Vienna about the nuclear deal. could not continue “indefinitely”.
This is the second time this month that a ship linked to Ofer has apparently been attacked. In early July, the Liberian-flagged container ship CSAV Tyndall, once tethered to Zodiac Maritime, suffered an unexplained explosion on board while in the northern Indian Ocean, according to the US Maritime Administration.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism