A crew member from the UK has been killed in an attack on an oil tanker off Oman as a ‘shadow war’ between Israel and Iran continues to rage.
The firm managing the vessel has said the worker was among two who died in the attack.
The Mercer Street oil tanker, which flies a Liberian flag but has ties to an Israeli billionaire, was damaged in an assault off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, authorities said Friday.
According to shipping radar data, the incident happened 185 miles southeast of Oman’s capital, Muscat.
Few details about the nature of the attack have emerged and a culprit has not been firmly identified publicly, but authorities have ruled out piracy.
It comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran, fuelled by stalled negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
According to the Associated Press, other Israel-linked ships have been targeted in recent months amid tensions between the two nations, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults.
Iran has in turn accused Israel of having a hand in a series of major attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear program.
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, which is Japanese owned but managed by the firm.
A statement read: ‘With profound sadness, we understand the incident onboard the M/T Mercer Street on July 29, 2021, has resulted in the deaths of two crew members on-board – a Romanian innovational and a UK national.
‘We are not are of harm to any other personnel.
‘Our primary concern remains the safety and wellbeing of everyone onboard and all those affected by the situation.
‘Details of the incident are still being established and an investigation into the incident is currently underway.
‘We continue to work closely with the [United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations] and other relevant authorities. We have no additional details to share at this time.’
A brief initial statement from British officials said an investigation has been launched but it did not elaborate other than saying it suspected the attack did not involve piracy.
Efforts to revive a 2015 deal designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions are rumbling on but hopes of a positive outcome are fading.
Negotiations over restoring the accord, which was signed under Barack Obama but scrapped by Donald Trump, have stalled in Vienna, with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warning talks ‘cannot go on indefinitely’.
Under the deal, Iran must allow inspectors into its facilities to ensure any nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes, with economic sanctions on the Republic eased in return.
Since the U.S. pulled out, Iran – which denies it is building nuclear weapons – has been accused of gradually violating the deal’s restrictions to put pressure on countries still signed up to the agreement to come up with economic incentives to offset crippling American sanctions.
Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and Iran are all still party to the treaty but its integrity is in tatters without US involvement.
Since the US 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.
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