A chemical tanker operating in the Indian Ocean Saturday was struck by an Iranian attack drone, a US defense official says.
“The motor vessel CHEM PLUTO, a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker was struck at approximately 10 a.m. local time (6 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time) today in the Indian Ocean, 200 nautical miles from the coast of India, by a one-way attack drone fired from Iran,” the official said in a statement.
The official added: “There were no casualties and a fire on board the tanker has been extinguished.”
A one-way drone is designed to impact its target rather than return to its origin.
“No US Navy vessels were in the vicinity,” the official said, adding that Naval Forces Central Command is communicating with the struck vessel which is making its way toward India.
The Indian Coast Guard posted on social media that there are 21 crew members on board and that “the vessel has started making (its) way toward Mumbai.”
Context: The strike comes after a series of attacks on shipping interests in the Red Sea by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels operating in Yemen, which have occurred since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
On Saturday, US Central Command reported more such incidents in a statement on social media. A crude oil tanker was hit by “a one-way attack drone” Saturday. There were no injuries, Central Command said. A separate chemical tanker operating in the southern Red Sea reported a “near miss” Saturday from a one-way drone, the command said.
Two “anti-ship ballistic missiles” were also fired into the southern Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen but did not hit any vessels, according to the statement.
It also said the USS Laboon, a Navy destroyer, shot down four aerial drones that were heading toward it.
While the incidents originating from Yemen have been regular, Saturday’s strike in the Indian Ocean may mark a new escalation in tensions.
“This is the seventh Iranian attack on commercial shipping since 2021,” the statement added.