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US official: Israeli-owned ship targeted in suspected Iranian attack in Indian Ocean


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“We continue to monitor the situation closely,” the official said. The official declined to elaborate on what intelligence the U.S. military gathered to assess Iran was behind the attack, though authorities suspect Tehran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard carried out the assault.

The same drones have been used by Russia in its war on Ukraine, as recently as in a barrage launched Saturday that Kyiv described as Moscow’s biggest drone attack since the war began.

Al-Mayadeen, a pan-Arab satellite channel that is politically allied with the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, reported that an Israeli ship had been targeted in the Indian Ocean. The channel cited anonymous sources for the report, which Iranian media later cited.

CMA CGM, a major shipper based in Marseille, France, did not respond to a request for comment. However, the vessel’s crew had been behaving as though they believed the ship faced a threat.

The ship had its Automatic Identification System tracker switched off since Tuesday when it left Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, according to data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by the AP. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS active for safety reasons, but crews will turn them off if it appears they might be targeted. It had done the same earlier when traveling through the Red Sea past Yemen, home to the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

“The attack is likely to have been targeted, due to the vessel’s Israeli affiliation through Eastern Pacific Shipping,” the private intelligence firm Ambrey told the AP. “The vessel’s AIS transmissions were off days prior to the event, indicating this alone does not prevent an attack.”

The Symi is owned by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which is a company ultimately controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. A phone number for Eastern Pacific Shipping in Singapore rang unanswered Saturday, while no one responded to a request for comment sent by email. The Israeli military referred questions to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which did not respond.

In November 2022, the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Pacific Zircon, also associated with Eastern Pacific, sustained damage in a suspected Iranian attack off Oman.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. However, 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.

In the Israel-Hamas war, which began with the militants’ Oct. 7 attack, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship in the Red Sea off Yemen.

On Saturday, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Mideast, said “an entity declaring itself to be the Yemeni authorities” had ordered at least one ship away from a location off Hodeida, Yemen, in the Red Sea.

“Vessels in the vicinity are advised to exercise caution and report any suspicious activity,” it warned.

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq also have launched attacks on American troops in both Iraq and Syria during the war. However, Iran itself has yet to be linked directly to an attack.

“Iran has been wary of intervening in the ongoing Middle East crisis and is likely to avoid any action that might escalate the conflict,” the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical risk firm, said in an analysis. “Small-scale attacks on U.S. forces and Israel by Iran’s allies throughout the region suggest Tehran is willing to turn up the heat in a limited fashion, but unless the attacks cause U.S. casualties or significant damage, a major U.S. response is unlikely.”

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