Tanker hit off India coast by drone from Iran, says US

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The strike hit a chemical products tanker, like the one shown here in a file photo
By Phelan Chatterjee
BBC News

A chemical tanker was hit by a drone launched from Iran in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, the US military says.

The Pentagon said the Chem Pluto vessel was struck “200 nautical miles (370km) from the coast of India” at 10:00 local time (06:00 GMT).

A fire on board the ship was extinguished. There were no casualties.

Iran has not commented. There has recently been a series of drone and rocket attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In a separate development, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said that on Saturday “two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. No ships reported being impacted by the ballistic missiles”.

It also said the USS Laboon warship patrolling the area “shot down four unmanned aerial drones originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen that were inbound” to the American vessel.

Later that day, a crude oil tanker reported being hit by a Houthi drone in the southern Red Sea, while another tanker saw a near miss.

The rebels, who control, much of Yemen, claim to be targeting Israel-linked vessels over the continuing war in Gaza.

Many large global shipping groups have suspended operations in the Red Sea due to the increased risk of attacks.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that Chem Pluto was hit by “a one-way attack drone fired from Iran”.

It said it was “a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker”.

Earlier, maritime security firm Ambrey said the vessel was linked to Israel, and was heading from Saudi Arabia to India.

The incident took place 200 nautical miles south-west of the city of Veraval in India’s Gujarat state, according to United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO).

The hit caused structural damage to the tanker and water was taken onboard.

Ambrey said the event, which is the first of its kind so far away from the Red Sea, fell within an area the firm considered a “heightened threat area” for Iranian drones.

The Indian navy sent an aircraft and warships to offer assistance.

Earlier on Saturday, the US accused Iran of being “deeply involved” in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

National security spokesperson Adrienne Watson said it was “consistent with Iran’s long-term material support and encouragement of the Houthis’ destabilising actions in the region”.

Later, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander warned it would force the closure of waterways other than the Red Sea if “America and its allies continue committing crimes” in Gaza.

Brig Gen Mohammad Reza Naqdi said these could include the Mediterranean Sea and Strait of Gibraltar – but offered no details of how this would happen.

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