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India drone strike: Cargo ship attacked off Gujarat coast

  • By Phelan Chatterjee
  • BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

The strike hit a chemical products tanker, like the one shown here in a file photo

A cargo ship was struck by a drone off the coast of the western Indian state of Gujarat on Saturday.

The Liberia-flagged chemical products tanker was linked to Israel, according to maritime security firm Ambrey, and was heading from Saudi Arabia to India.

The attack sparked a fire onboard the ship which was put out, but none of the roughly 20 crew members were harmed.

It comes after a series of drone and rocket attacks on ships in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The group, which controls much of Yemen, has carried out more than 100 drone and missile attacks on 10 vessels, according to US officials. It claims to be targeting Israel over the war in Gaza.

Many large global shipping groups have suspended operations in the Red Sea due to the increased risk of attacks.

But it is not yet clear who was behind the strike near India on Saturday.

The incident took place 200 nautical miles (370km) south-west of the city of Veraval, according the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO).

It caused structural damage to the tanker – identified in Indian media as the crude oil-carrying MV Chem Pluto – and water was taken onboard.

Ambrey said the event, which is the first of its kind so far away from the Red Sea, fell within an area the firm considered a “heightened threat area” for Iranian drones.

The Indian navy sent an aircraft and warships to offer assistance.

Earlier on Saturday, the US accused Iran of being “deeply involved” in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

National security spokesperson Adrienne Watson said it was “consistent with Iran’s long-term material support and encouragement of the Houthis’ destabilising actions in the region”.

Later, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander warned it would force the closure of waterways other than the Red Sea if “America and its allies continue committing crimes” in Gaza.

Brig Gen Mohammad Reza Naqdi said these could include the Mediterranean Sea and Strait of Gibraltar – but offered no details of how this would happen.

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