Pentagon says drone fired from Iran hit tanker off India's coast

Indian navy sent a warship to assist the vessel after it was struck on Saturday

A photo released by Iran's military in July 2022 shows what it said was a drone launched from an Iranian submarine in the Indian Ocean. On Saturday, a drone originating from Iran struck a chemical tanker owned by Japan off the Indian coast, the US military said. Iranian Army / EPA
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A drone launched from Iran hit a Japanese-owned chemical tanker off the coast of India on Saturday, causing a fire but no casualties, the US military said.

The attack came amid a flurry of drone and missile attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels on ships in the Red Sea since the start of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7, with the group claiming to act in solidarity with Gaza.

The Pentagon said a drone "fired from Iran" hit the MV Chem Pluto at around 10am local time as the vessel was sailing about 370km off the coast of India. It said no US Navy vessels were in the vicinity.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike.

The ship was sailing under a Liberian flag and was operated by a Dutch entity, although it is owned by a Japanese company, the Pentagon said.

Ambrey, a maritime security firm, said the "chemical/products tanker ... was Israel-affiliated" and had been on its way from Saudi Arabia to India.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Dutch company operating the MV Chem Pluto "is connected to Israeli shipping tycoon Idan Ofer".

The Indian navy said it had responded to a request for assistance.

"An aircraft was dispatched and it reached overhead the vessel and established safety of the involved ship and its crew," a navy official told AFP.

"An Indian navy warship has also been dispatched so as to provide assistance as required."

Separately, US warship the Laboon shot down four attack drones "originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen" on Saturday, the US military Central Command Command (Centcom) said in a post on X, adding that no injuries or damage were reported.

An attack drone also came close to a Norwegian-flagged tanker, MV Blaamanen, it said, while another tanker, the Indian-flagged MV Saibaba, was "hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported".

"These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17," Centcom said in a post on X.

The Red Sea attacks on shipping since the start of the Israel-Hamas war have prompted major firms to reroute their cargo vessels around the southern tip of Africa, despite the higher fuel costs of much longer voyages.

The latest attacks came as an official in Iran's Revolutionary Guard warned of the forced closure of other waterways unless Israel halted its war with Hamas.

"With the continuation of these crimes, America and its allies should expect the emergence of new resistance forces and the closure of other waterways," Mohammad Reza Naqdi said, quoted by Iran's Tasnim news agency.

Among the waterways he mentioned was the Mediterranean Sea. He did not elaborate.

With reports from agencies.

Updated: December 24, 2023, 5:01 AM