“Iranian drone” attacked Mercer Street tanker, US claims

Iran has been linked to the fatal drone attack on a Liberia-flagged tanker that occurred off Oman in late July.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that struck the 50,000 dwt Mercer Street was produced in Iran, the US Central Command’s (CENTCOM) investigation found.

Early on 29 July, the ship, operated by UK-based Zodiac Maritime Limited, came under attack from two one-way UAVs while transiting in international waters off the coast of Oman.

After the first failed UAV attack, crew was able to recover some UAV debris.

On 30 July, in a separate attack, the petroleum product tanker was struck by another drone, killing the ship’s master and a security officer.

The investigative team determined that the extensive damage to Mercer Stree was the result of a third UAV attack on 30 July. This UAV was loaded with a military-grade explosive, and caused the death of the two crewmembers.

The explosive detonation following the UAV impact created an approximately 6-foot diameter hole in the topside of the pilot house and badly damaged the interior.

Photo: CENTCOM

“Explosive chemical tests were indicative of a Nitrate-based explosive and identified as RDX, indicating the UAV had been rigged to cause injury and destruction,” according to CENTCOM.

Explosives experts were able to recover several pieces of the third UAV, including a vertical stabilizer (part of the wing) and internal components which were nearly identical to previously-collected examples from Iranian one-way attack UAVs.

“US experts concluded, based on the vertical fin being
identical to those identified on one of the Iranian designed and produced one-way attack ‘kamikaz’ UAV family, that Iran was actively involved in this attack.”

However, Iran has strongly rejected the country’s involvement in the attack and described the accusations as “psychological” provocations initiated by the USA, UK and Israel.

“Reported ‘incidents’ in the Persian Gulf and broader region appear utterly suspicious. Reaffirming our strong commitment to regional stability & maritime security, Iran stands ready to offer assistance in case of any maritime accidents,” Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said.

The newest incident comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and Israel. Israel is believed to have targeted in the past a number of Iranian and Iranian-linked vessels shipping Iranian oil and violating US sanctions. What is more, Israel is suspected of repeated sabotage of Iran’s nuclear programme.