July 18, 2024

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US accuses Iran of attacking tanker in Indian Ocean

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A chemical tanker operating in the Indian Ocean has been attacked by a drone launched from Iran, according to the US military, expanding the threat faced by international merchant shipping.

The Pentagon said in a statement that the Chem Pluto was hit about 200 nautical miles from the coast of India on Saturday by a “one-way attack drone fired from Iran”. It was the seventh assault by Iranian forces on commercial shipping since 2021, the statement said.

“There were no casualties and a fire on board the tanker has been extinguished,” said a defence department spokesperson.

The attack marks the first time that the US has accused Iran of a direct attack on a civilian vessel since Israel’s war with Hamas began in October.

The most recent incident also expands the geographic area of a spate of attacks that have been concentrated in the Red Sea, adding complications to the US-led military response to protect ocean shipping.

The US accused Iran on Friday of being “deeply involved” in the string of attacks by the Yemen-based Houthi rebels on vessels in the Red Sea in recent months, which have resulted in the biggest reshaping of global trade since Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine.

Iran has denied that it is providing support to the Houthis for the attacks. Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, said on national television that the US accusation was “baseless”.

“This is a Yemeni decision to defend and support Gaza,” he added.

The Indian Coast Guard said it had sent a patrol ship and maritime surveillance aircraft to provide assistance to the Chem Pluto, which had 20 Indian nationals and one Vietnamese worker on board.

In a separate incident, the US Central Command said it had shot down four unmanned drones targeting the USS Laboon, a military vessel, and had received reports of two ships that had come under attack in the…

2023-12-24 05:56:50

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