Pentagon says Iran drone struck chemical tanker near India, expanding Red Sea risks amid Israel-Gaza war

Sources – AFP

A Japanese-owned chemical tanker struck on Saturday off the coast of India was targeted by a drone “fired from Iran,” the Pentagon said, a sign of expanding risks to commercial shipping beyond the Red Sea

The attack came amid a flurry of drone and missile strikes by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels on a vital Red Sea shipping lane since the start of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7, with the group claiming to act in solidarity with Gaza.

Saturday’s attack took place around 10am local time and caused no casualties aboard the vessel, it said, adding that a fire was extinguished

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

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

It was the first time the Pentagon has openly accused Iran of directly targeting ships since the start of Israel’s war on the militant group Hamas, which is backed by Iran.

The Pentagon statement said the MV Chem Plute 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 Joumat 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 help

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

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

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike.

A spokesperson for the franian delegation at the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

The Red Sea attacks on shipping since the start of the Israel-Gaza war have prompted major firms to divert their cargo vessels

around the southern tip of Africa, despite the higher fuel costs of much longer voyages

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The Houthi rebels have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targating 10 merchant vessels involving more than 35 different countries, according to the Pentagon

On Saturday Washington claimed it shot down four drones headed towards a US destroyer in the southern Red Sea and launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said

These attacks represent the 1401 and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17 CENTCOM said in a post on X formerly Twitter

The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control much of Yemen, have disrupted world trade for weeks with attacks on ships passing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the southern end of the Red Sea in what they say is a response to Israel’s war in Gaza.

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