Chemical Tanker in Indian Ocean Hit by Iranian Drone in Unprecedented Attack

Chemical Tanker in Indian Ocean Hit by Iranian Drone in Unprecedented Attack

A chemical tanker navigating the Indian Ocean fell victim to a drone strike launched from Iran, as reported by the U.S. military on Saturday. The targeted vessel, Chem Pluto, managed to extinguish the resulting fire, and fortunately, no casualties were reported. Iran has not officially commented on the incident. Notably, Houthi rebels in Yemen, supported by Iran and backing Hamas in the Israel-Gaza conflict, have recently employed drones and rockets to target ships in the Red Sea.

This occurrence marks the first instance of such an attack occurring so far from the Red Sea, according to maritime security firm Ambrey. The targeted vessel was en route from Saudi Arabia to India and had connections to Israel, as indicated by Ambrey. Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for targeting vessels linked to Israel amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The U.S. accused Iran of launching the attack, marking the first public accusation of this nature. Previously, the U.S. had accused Iran of significant involvement in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea, a claim Tehran has consistently denied. Iran's Revolutionary Guards have issued warnings about potential disruptions to waterways other than the Red Sea if perceived crimes in Gaza continue.

The targeted vessel, Chem Pluto, described as a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker, sustained structural damage in the attack.

The incident occurred 200 nautical miles southwest of Veraval in India's Gujarat state, according to United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO). Ambrey noted that the event fell within an area considered a "heightened threat area" for Iranian drones.

In response to the incident, the Indian navy dispatched aircraft and warships to provide assistance. BBC reported that they could not independently verify the details of the incident.

In a separate development, the U.S. Central Command (Centcom) reported that two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The USS Laboon warship patrolling the area successfully intercepted four unmanned aerial drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas.

This series of events has heightened concerns in the shipping industry, leading many global shipping groups to suspend operations in the Red Sea due to increased risks. The UK government has pledged to ensure the safety of the route, with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps stating the commitment to repel attacks and prevent the Red Sea from becoming a "no-go area."

Foreign Secretary David Cameron characterized Iran as a "thoroughly malign influence in the region and in the world," emphasizing the need to send a clear message that such escalations will not be tolerated. Maritime security experts note a sense of nervousness in the region, with container ships more inclined to reroute amid the uncertainty and lack of stability.

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