US military says photos show damage Iranian-made 'kamikaze' drone packed with explosives did in deadly tanker attack

·3 min read
The Israeli-linked Japanese-owned tanker MT Mercer Street is seen off the port of the Gulf Emirate of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on August 3, 2021
The Israeli-linked Japanese-owned tanker MT Mercer Street is seen off the port of the Gulf Emirate of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on August 3, 2021 Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images
  • The US military released photos of the damage a "kamikaze" drone did to a tanker last week.

  • The drone, experts concluded, was made by Iran and resembled drones used in other attacks.

  • It was packed with explosives and "rigged to cause injury and destruction," experts said.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The US shared photo evidence on Friday that it said showed Iran built the "kamikaze" drone used in a deadly attack on the Israeli-linked tanker M/T Mercer Street off the coast of Oman on July 30, an attack that has raised tensions in the region.

An expert explosive investigative team from the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan analyzed recovered pieces of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, used in the fatal attack on the tanker, concluding that they were "nearly identical to previous examples from Iranian one-way attack UAVs," US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement.

CENTCOM slide showing images from investigation into drone strike on tanker
A slide of US military photos from an investigation into a drone strike on the tanker Mercer Street CENTCOM

"The use of Iranian designed and produced one way attack 'kamikaze' UAVs is a growing trend in the region," CENTCOM said. "They are actively used by Iran and their proxies against coalition forces in the region, to include targets in Saudi Arabia and Iraq."

US military photo of drone strike damage to Mercer Street
US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street CENTCOM

There were two failed drone attacks on the tanker on July 29, and the crew managed to recover small remnants of at least one of the drones, CENTCOM said.

US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street
US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street CENTCOM

In a successful follow-on attack on July 30, a drone - armed with a military-grade explosive - was deliberately crashed into the vessel. Two crewmembers, a Romanian citizen who was the master of the ship and a British citizen who was part of the security team, were killed.

US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street
US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street CENTCOM

"The explosive detonation following the UAV impact created an approximately 6-foot diameter hole in the topside of the pilot house and badly damaged the interior," CENTCOM said.

US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street
US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street CENTCOM

The US military added that "explosive chemical tests were indicative of a Nitrate-based explosive and identified as RDX, indicating the UAV had been rigged to cause injury and destruction."

US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street
US military photo of drone strike damage to tanker Mercer Street CENTCOM

The incident follows a number of skirmishes involving oil tankers in the region since 2019, which have raised tensions between Tehran and the West.

The UK and Israel, experts from which concurred with the US military's findings, have also blamed Iran for the July 30 attack. The Iranian government, however, has denied any involvement. Until Friday, the US had not publicly released evidence backing up the allegation against Iran.

"This was a deliberate and targeted attack, and a clear violation of international law. All available evidence clearly points to Iran," the G7 nations said in a statement Friday. There is no justification for this attack."

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday threatened Iran with military action. "We are at a point where we need to take military action against Iran," Gantz told the news website Ynet, per the Associated Press. "The world needs to take action against Iran now."

In response, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted, "In another brazen violation of Int'l law, Israeli regime now blatantly threatens #Iran with military action. Such malign behavior stems from blind Western support. We state this clearly: ANY foolish act against Iran will be met with a DECISIVE response. Don't test us."

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