Wila, a merchant vessel in international waters en-route to the United Arab Emirates port of Khor Fakkan, in the Gulf of Oman, was boarded by armed Iranian personnel last August. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Iran was behind a deadly drone attack on an oil tanker last month off the coast of Oman, a U.S Defense Department team has concluded.
The U.S. Central Command announced the finding in a statement on Friday following an investigation by an expert team from the USS Ronald Reagan dispatched to examine evidence and interview crew members of the Mercer Street tanker who survived the July 30 attack.
After two unsuccessful attacks the evening before, the Liberia-flagged tanker was struck with a drone loaded with military-grade explosives that left a 6-foot hole in the pilothouse and killed two crew members, the team found.
Investigators found small remnants of one drone that the Mercer Street crew had recovered from the water. They also found several pieces of the third drone, including part of a wing and other components that were nearly identical to those recovered from previous attacks from Iran.
The Mercer Street's location was within range of previous documented "one-way" drone attacks from the Iranian coast. Explosive experts from the United Kingdom and Israel agreed with the team's findings.
An accompanying report said Iran is increasingly using drones for one-way or "kamikaze" attacks in the region.
"They are actively used by Iran and their proxies against coalition forces in the region, to include targets in Saudi Arabia and Iraq," the report said.
Foreign ministers from the G7 group of countries condemned Iran following the release of the findings.
"Iran's behavior, alongside its support to proxy forces and non-state armed actors, threatens international peace and security," they said in a joint statement issued Friday. "We call on Iran to stop all activities inconsistent with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and call on all parties to play a constructive role in fostering regional stability and peace."