A drone attack on a Japanese-owned tanker 200 nautical miles from India has aggravated shipping tensions in West Asia and the Middle East, which are already strained by multiple attacks on vessels in or near the Red Sea.
The US Department of Defence said early on Saturday that the drone which attacked the chemical tanker was launched from Iran.
“The motor vessel Chem Pluto, a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker was struck at approximately 10am local time (6am GMT) today in the Indian Ocean, 200 nautical miles from the coast of India, by a one-way attack drone fired from Iran,” a Pentagon spokesperson said.
The incident highlights escalating regional tensions and new risk to shipping lanes after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
Many of the world’s biggest shipping companies are now avoiding the Red Sea, because of numerous attacks on vessels over the past four weeks.
The Iranian government, as well as its allied militant forces in Yemen, have publicly criticized the Israeli government’s military operation in Gaza.
Thousands of Palestinian citizens have been killed in the ongoing conflict, according to aid monitors.
The Pentagon statement said this was the “seventh Iranian attack on commercial shipping since 2021.”
There were no casualties as a result of the attack and a brief fire on board the tanker was extinguished.
The incident took place only 200 nautical miles from the coast of India.
A spokesperson for the Iranian delegation at the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard