An Iranian drone struck a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean, Pentagon says

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The Pentagon seen from the air on March 3, 2022.



CNN

A chemical tanker operating in the Indian Ocean was hit by an Iranian attack drone on Saturday, a US Defense Department official said.

“The Liberian-flagged motor vessel CHEM PLUTO, a chemical tanker owned by Japan and operated by the Netherlands, was struck at approximately 10 am local time today (6 am GMT) in the Indian Ocean, 200 nautical miles off the coast. India launched a one-way attack drone from Iran,” the official said in a statement.

A one-way attack drone is designed to attack its target instead of returning to its origin. “There was no casualty and the fire in the tanker has been extinguished,” the defense official said.

“There are no US naval vessels in the vicinity,” the report said, adding that Naval Forces Central Command had contacted the stricken ship.

India's coast guard said 20 Indian crew members and one Vietnamese were on board at the time of the attack. However, it has been reported that no casualties have been reported.

It said it dispatched a patrol vessel and a maritime surveillance aircraft after making contact with the vessel.

After carrying out damage assessment and repairs to its power generation systems, the patrol vessel MV Chem Pluto started heading towards Mumbai, the Coast Guard said.

The ship, which left Saudi Arabia on December 19, was expected to reach India's southwestern port city of Mangalore on December 25.

The strike in the Indian Ocean is backed by Iran Houthi rebels Launched in Yemen More than 100 attacks About a dozen merchant and commercial ships have crossed the Red Sea in the past four weeks against it, CNN previously reported.

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The US Central Command announced more such incidents in a statement on social media on Saturday. A crude oil tanker was hit by a “one-way attack drone” on Saturday. The Central Command reported that there were no injuries. A separate chemical tanker operating in the southern Red Sea reported a “near miss” from a one-way drone on Saturday, the command said.

Also, two “anti-ship ballistic missiles” were launched from Yemen's Houthi-controlled areas into the southern Red Sea, but did not hit any ships, and the USS Laboon, a naval destroyer, shot down four aerial drones. They were heading towards it.

Despite repeated attacks from Yemen, Saturday's strike in the Indian Ocean involving a drone the US says originated from Iran could mark a new escalation in tensions.

“Iran is deeply involved in planning operations against merchant shipping in the Red Sea,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrian Watson told CNN.

The newly declassified intelligence “has helped the Houthis launch attacks against Iranian-backed Israel and maritime targets throughout the Gaza crisis, although Iran has largely deferred operational decision-making authority to the Houthis,” Watson said.

The United States this week launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, a maritime alliance aimed at strengthening security in the South Red Sea. So far, more than 20 countries have signed on to the initiative, the Pentagon said Thursday.

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