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UPDATED: Fatalities Confirmed. Israeli-operated Oil Tanker Targeted In Gulf Of Oman: Conflicting Reports Of Cause

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UPDATED: Fatalities Confirmed. Israeli-operated Oil Tanker Targeted In Gulf Of Oman: Conflicting Reports Of Cause

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The attack on the Israeli-operated oil tanker has resulted in the death of two crew members:

An oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire reportedly came under attack off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations.

The attack targeted Liberian-flagged oil tanker Mercer Street just northeast of the Omani island of Masirah. The location is over 300 kilometers southeast of Oman’s capital, Muscat.

The statement did not elaborate, only said that it suspected the attack did not involve piracy.

Earlier on July 29th, the British military group had said it was investigating another unexplained incident in the same area, but it did not elaborate.

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 and was Japanese owned. The British Defense Ministry earlier misidentified the ship’s owners.

“We are in coordination and liaising with the UK MTO (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations) and other relevant authorities,” Zodiac Maritime said in a statement.

They described the attack as “piracy,” without elaborating.

“At the time of the incident the vessel was in the northern Indian Ocean, traveling from Dar es Salaam to Fujairah with no cargo onboard,” the statement said.

Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com showed the vessel had been near where British officials said the attack occurred.

Oman did not acknowledge an attack and officials there did not respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Northern Indian Ocean is within the range of Somali pirates, who use motherships to reach long-distance targets.

In the early 2000s, Somali pirates terrorized the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba before expanding operations to catch ships avoiding their operations.

Disguising themselves as fishermen “they often use AK-47s and speedboats, and they were in [groups of] six to 10 well-armed men,” Abdi Yusuf, a counter-terrorism expert based in Nairobi, previously explained to The Jerusalem Post Magazine. The pirates then board and hold the vessel, crew, and cargo hostage for a ransom. It is still uncertain the method in which M/T Mercer Street was attacked.

Despite the Zodiac Maritime report of piracy, Yusuf cautioned The Jerusalem Post that Iran could have been behind the attack. It “seems that it’s Iranian proxies who are behind these attacks. They are targeting Israeli ships in what appears to be Tehran’s latest shadow war against Israel.”

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