Raab accuses Iran of killing British citizen in drone attack, vows to ‘retaliate’

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was “highly likely” that Iran had killed a British national in a drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman, as he promised a “coordinated response”.

The strike on MV Mercer Street, Thursday night, was the first known fatal attack after years of assaults on commercial shipping in the region linked to tensions with Iran over its shattered nuclear deal.

British maritime security company Embry said the attack, which saw a hole in the ship’s bridge, killed one of its employees on board. A Roman citizen was also killed.

Iran denied responsibility after the Israeli prime minister directly blamed it for the attack, but Mr Raab said the UK government supported Naftali Bennett’s allegations.

“The United Kingdom condemns the unlawful and cruel attack perpetrated on a merchant ship off the coast of Oman, which resulted in the death of a British citizen and a Romanian,” Raab said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

“Our thoughts are with the friends and families of those killed in the accident.

We believe that this attack was deliberate, targeted and a clear violation of international law by Iran.

Mr Raab continued: “UK assessments have concluded that it is highly likely that Iran attacked MV Mercer Street in international waters off Oman on 29 July using one or more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Iran must end such attacks, and ships must be allowed to move freely in accordance with international law. The UK is working with our international partners on a coordinated response to this unacceptable attack.”

The London-based Mercer Zodiac Maritime, which is part of the Zodiac Group, is run by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, and owned by Taihi Kayun, which belongs to the Tokyo-based Nippon Yusen group.

The State Department said the drone attack followed similar attacks on three other ships linked to Israel in the area since February.

Officials said that in the summer of 2019, Iran was also “almost certainly responsible” for the attacks on two ships in the Gulf of Oman.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said the accusations against Iran were “baseless”.

“This is not the first time that the Zionist regime that occupies Jerusalem has made such empty accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Khatibzadeh said. “Wherever this regime has gone, it has taken instability, terror and violence with it.” He added: “He who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind.”

Zodiac Maritime said the empty Mercer Street was on its way from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates at the time of the attack.

The attack targeted the tanker northeast of the Omani island of Masirah, 185 miles southeast of the Omani capital, Muscat.

The USS Ronald Reagan and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mitcher were escorting Mercer Street as it headed to a safe port, the US Fifth Fleet stationed in the Middle East said in a statement Saturday.

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