Tanker M/V Chem Pluto

Pentagon Says Drone That Hit Tanker Near India Was Launched From Iran

MV Chem Pluto from Indian Coast Guard Dornier
MV Chem Pluto from Indian Coast Guard Dornier. By Harold Hutchison

The Department of Defense(DOD) on Saturday said a drone that struck a tanker off the coast of India was fired from Iran.

The tanker M/V Chem Pluto was struck by what the Pentagon described as a “one-way attack drone” about 200 nautical miles off the coast of India Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

It is the first time that the U.S. has accused Iran of launching an attack on a merchant ship since Hamas carried out a deadly Oct. 7 terrorist attack on multiple locations in southern Israel that killed over 1,400 people.

“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 DOD said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “There were no casualties and a fire on board the tanker has been extinguished. No U.S. Navy vessels were in the vicinity. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command remains in communication with the vessel as it continues toward a destination in India. This is the seventh Iranian attack on commercial shipping since 2021.”

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The Indian Coast Guard and Navy responded to assist the stricken vessel, Asian News International reported. The vessel was traveling from Saudi Arabia to the southern Indian port of Managlore, according to World Is One News diplomatic and defense correspondent Sidhant Sibal.

No fatalities were reported in the attack, The Times of Israel reported. The Chem Pluto, which suffered structural damage and a fire, requested an escort from the Indian Coast Guard and is expected to arrive in Mumbai on Monday, according to Times News Now.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have launched multiple attacks on merchant vessels from Yemeni territory in ships around the Bab el Mandab and have attempted other attacks on Israel, including one thwarted when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney shot down 14 drones fired by the rebels in Yemen on Dec. 16.

The Houthis carried out multiple attacks on shipping off the coast of Yemen Saturday, including firing four drones in the direction of the Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon, all of which were shot down, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Iranian-backed rebels also attacked commercial vessels in the region, hitting the M/V Blaamanen, a Norwegian tanker, the Journal reported.

The Pentagon announced plans for a multi-national task force to combat the attacks on merchant shipping on Dec. 13, and Reuters reported that several companies re-routed their vessels to avoid the Bab el Mandab by sailing around Africa.

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