Tanker ship off India hit by attack drone 'fired from Iran': Pentagon

Tanker ship off India hit by attack drone 'fired from Iran': Pentagon

Tanker ship off India hit by attack drone 'fired from Iran': Pentagon

A Japanese-owned chemical tanker was attacked Saturday off the coast of India by a drone “fired from Iran,” according to the Pentagon, indicating that commercial maritime threats are moving beyond the Red Sea.

It was the first time the Pentagon has accused Iran of actively attacking ships since Israel launched its war against the Palestinian group Hamas, which is backed by Tehran.

The incident comes amid a flurry of new drone and missile attacks on the key Red Sea shipping lane by Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7, with the group claiming to act in sympathy with Gaza.

The incident in the Indian Ocean on Saturday occurred at 10 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) and resulted in no casualties aboard the vessel, according to a Pentagon statement, which also stated that a fire was doused.

The US military “remains in communication with the vessel as it continues toward a destination in India,” it added.

The drone strike occurred 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) off the coast of India, it said, adding that no US Navy vessels were in the vicinity.

The Pentagon statement said the MV Chem Pluto ship flew under a Liberian flag and was operated by a Dutch entity, although the ship is owned by a Japanese company.

Ambrey, a maritime security firm, said the “chemical/products tanker… was Israel-affiliated” and had been on its way from Saudi Arabia to India.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Dutch company operating the MV Chem Pluto “is connected to Israeli shipping tycoon Idan Ofer.”

The Indian navy said it had responded to a request for assistance.

“An aircraft was dispatched and it reached overhead the vessel and established safety of the involved ship and its crew,” a navy official told AFP.

“An Indian navy warship has also been dispatched so as to provide assistance as required.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike.

Last month, an Israeli-owned cargo ship was hit in a suspected drone attack by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Indian Ocean, according to a US official.

The Malta-flagged vessel managed by an Israeli-affiliated company was reportedly damaged when the unmanned aerial vehicle exploded close to it, according to Ambrey.

US warship targeted

Separately, US warship the Laboon shot down four attack drones “originating from Huthi-controlled areas in Yemen” on Saturday, the Pentagon’s Central Command (Centcom) said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, adding that no injuries or damage were reported.

An attack drone also came close to a Norwegian-flagged tanker, MV Blaamanen, it said, while another tanker, the Indian-flagged MV Saibaba, was “hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported.”

Centcom, meanwhile, said Huthi rebels fired two antiship ballistic missiles into Red Sea shipping lanes Saturday with “no ships reported being impacted.”

“These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Huthi militants since Oct. 17,” Centcom said.

The Red Sea attacks on shipping since the start of the Israel-Hamas war have prompted major firms to reroute their cargo vessels around the southern tip of Africa, despite the higher fuel costs of much longer voyages.

On Saturday, an official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned of the forced closure of other waterways unless Israel halted its war with Hamas.

“With the continuation of these crimes, America and its allies should expect the emergence of new resistance forces and the closure of other waterways,” Mohammad Reza Naqdi said, quoted by Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

Among the waterways he mentioned was the Mediterranean Sea. He did not elaborate.