A British citizen has died on board a ship operated by a London-based Israeli company after it had come under attack on Thursday night off the coast of Oman.
Zodiac Maritime, the shipping company operating the ship, said in a statement that the incident has resulted in the deaths of two crew members, a British and a Romanian, but didn’t provide any further details.
The company is owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer is based in Monaco, but its London-based office oversees the ship. It described the attack on Friday as “piracy” and said the ship has a Japanese owner.
“Details of the incident are still being established, and an investigation into the incident is currently underway,” Zodiac Maritime said in a statement.
The identity of the British victim is yet to be revealed. Zodiac Maritime didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment by The Independent.
The vessel, called M/T Mercer Street, was travelling from Dar es Salaam via Tanzania to Fujairah in the UAE with “no cargo on board” when the incident occurred, the shipping company said in its statement.
“We continue to work closely with the UKMOT (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations) and other relevant authorities,” the statement added.
Earlier today, there was confusion around the ship ownership after the MTO group, which is part of the UK defence ministry, had initially confirmed the ship was owned by the Israeli company. But it is now understood the ship is owned by a Japanese company, not Zodiac Maritime.
“We are aware of reports of an attack on a merchant vessel off the coast of Oman. UK military headquarters in the region are currently conducting investigations,” a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said in a statement sent to The Independent.
The attack comes amid heightened tensions between that country and Iran as negotiations remain stalled over Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Since former US President Donald Trump 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.
Isreal and Iran, in particular, have been locked in alleged tit-for-tat attacks on each other’s ships in the Indian Ocean and other locations.
On 13 April, an Israeli- owned ship was attacked near the UAE, which Israel later blamed on Iran. In less than three weeks, Iran’s largest navy ship sank after catching fire in the Gulf waters.
A commercial ship, previously under Israeli ownership, was attacked on 3 July in the northern Indian Ocean.
A brief initial statement from the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said an investigation is underway into the incident, which it described as happening late on Thursday night just north-east of the Omani island of Masirah.
The location is 185 miles southeast of Oman’s capital, Muscat.
The statement did not elaborate, other than to say that it suspected the attack did not involve piracy.
The Associated Press was first to report the incident. It noted that earlier on Thursday, the British military group had said it was investigating another unexplained incident in the same area. The AP also said the US 5th Fleet patrolling the area didn’t respond to a request for comment by its reporters.
Israeli officials are yet to comment on the attack.
Satellite tracking data from MarineTraffic.com showed the vessel had been near where British officials said the attack occurred.
Additional reporting by AP
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