Two killed in attack on ship linked to Israeli billionaire off Oman – reports

Two killed in attack on ship linked to Israeli billionaire off Oman – reports
The Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street (Johan Victor via AP)

Two crew members, including one from the UK, were killed when an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire reportedly came under attack in the Arabian Sea off Oman on Thursday.

The attack targeted Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street north-east of the Omani island of Masirah. The location is more than 300km (185 miles) south-east of Oman’s capital Muscat.

Israeli officials did not immediately acknowledge the attack, but it comes amid heightened tensions between the country and Iran as negotiations remain stalled over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Other Israeli-linked ships have been targeted in recent months as well amid a shadow war between the two nations, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.

The Mercer Street (Johan Victor via AP)

Meanwhile, Israel has been suspected in a series of major attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear programme.

London-based Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, issued a statement saying the ship was the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street and was Japanese owned. The British Defence Ministry had earlier misidentified the ship’s owners.

Zodiac Maritime described the attack on Thursday night as “piracy”, without elaborating further.

It later said the attack killed two crew members, one from the United Kingdom and another from Romania.

It said the company was “not aware of harm to any other personnel”.

“At the time of the incident, the vessel was in the northern Indian Ocean, traveling from Dar es Salaam to Fujairah with no cargo onboard,” the Zodiac Maritime statement said, naming ports in Tanzania and the United Arab Emirates respectively.

Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com showed the vessel had been close to where British officials said the attack occurred.

But the last signal the ship sent came early Friday morning.

A brief initial statement from United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said an investigation was under way into the incident, which it described as happening late on Thursday night.

The statement did not elaborate, other than to say that it suspected the attack did not involve piracy.

Earlier on Thursday, UKMTO had said it was investigating another unexplained incident in the same area, but did not elaborate.

Oman did not acknowledge an attack and officials there did not respond to requests for comment.

The US navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Middle East, did not respond to a request for comment.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal and as negotiations over restoring the accord have stalled in Vienna.

Since former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, there have been a series of ship attacks in the region suspected to have been carried out by Tehran.

Iranian media quoted foreign reports on the attack, but did not elaborate.

The attack came the night after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking from Kuwait, warned Iran that talks in Vienna over the nuclear deal “cannot go on indefinitely”.

This is the second time this month a ship tied to Mr Ofer has been targeted reportedly.

In early July, the Liberian-flagged container vessel CSAV Tyndall, once linked to Zodiac Maritime, suffered an unexplained explosion on board while in the northern Indian Ocean, according to the US Maritime Administration.

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