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Iran to blame for drone attack on tanker: US military experts

As new evidence of Iranian responsibility emerged, Iran was under increasing pressure on Friday over the drone strike that struck the Mercer Street oil tanker last month in the Arabian Sea. In a statement released on Friday, Central Command (Centcom) confirmed military experts visited the Israel-connected Mercer Street after the attack and discovered the drone used was made by Iran.

The G7 group of wealthy democracies meanwhile criticized Iran for its nuclear program as Britain, the US, and other nations called for action against Tehran at the UN Security Council. According to the US explosives experts from the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, the tanker was twice shot at near the coast of Oman during the evening of July 29, before being hit in a third attack the next day.

The UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] was loaded with a military-grade explosive and killed two crew members: The master of the ship, a Romanian national, and a British national who was a security detail member, Centcom said in a statement. According to Centcom, the explosion damaged the interior of the pilothouse severely and caused a 2-meter hole on the roof. Tests showed that the drone contained a nitrate-based explosive called RDX, indicating that it had been designed to cause injury and destruction.

As US experts retrieved parts of the drone, including a piece of the wing and internal components, they found that these were ‘nearly identical’ to previously collected Iranian attack drones. ‘The distance from the Iranian coast to the locations of the attacks was within range of Iranian one-way attack UAVs,’ Centcom said. US experts concluded that this UAV was produced in Iran – based on the evidence. Iran has denied responsibility for the attack. Centcom said it had shared its evidence with British and Israeli explosives experts, who agreed with the US conclusion.

The attack has been condemned by the international community, and the US has promised a ‘collective response’. G7 foreign ministers said in a statement Friday that the assault was ‘deliberate and targeted’ and a clear violation of international law. It is clear that Iran is the source of all available evidence. The G7 statement said that this attack was unjustified. According to international law, vessels must be able to navigate freely. ‘We will continue to protect all shipping, on which the global economy depends, in order for it to operate freely and without being threatened by irresponsible and violent acts’,it added

Members of the UN Security Council discussed the attacks behind closed doors on Friday and will meet again at the ministerial level on Monday to discuss the Mercer incident and other maritime security threats. The UK knows that Iran was responsible for this attack. After the meeting, Britain’s UN ambassador Barbara Woodward told reporters, ‘We know this was deliberate and targeted. Britain will hold Iran accountable and apply cost to the loss’, she said.

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Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has spoken with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz about the attack and ‘expressed concern about Iran’s proliferation and use of UAVs across the region and committed to continue cooperating closely on regional security’. Mercer Street is operated by Israeli tycoon Eyal Ofer’s company.


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