The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a British military organization in the region monitoring shipping, told the AP: “We are aware of an incident and it’s being investigated at this time.”
The official identified the vessel attacked as the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Zircon. That tanker is operated by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is a company ultimately owned by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.
A phone number for Eastern Pacific rang unanswered Wednesday and multiple emails were not immediately acknowledged. A call to the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi similarly rang unanswered.
While no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion immediately fell on Iran. Tehran and Israel have been engaged in a yearslong shadow war in the wider Middle East, with some drone attacks targeting Israeli-associated vessels traveling around the region.
The U.S. also blamed Iran for a series of attacks occurring off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2019. Tehran then had begun escalating its nuclear program following the U.S.’ unilateral withdraw from its atomic deal with world powers.
In 2021, a suspected Iranian drone strike hit the Israeli-associated oil tanker Mercer Street off Oman, killing two people onboard.
Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge the attack on the Pacific Zircon. It wasn’t immediately clear where the vessel was Wednesday. Satellite-tracking data from late Tuesday provided by MarineTraffic.com put the vessel deep in the Arabian Sea after leaving the Omani port of Sohar.
Since the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal, nonproliferation experts warn the Islamic Republic now has enough enriched uranium to make at least one nuclear weapon if it chose, though Tehran insists its program is peaceful.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.