The U.S. Navy answered a distress call from a merchant tanker that had been attacked off Oman. The ship was most likely hit by a drone strike, the U.S. military said. Two of its crew members died in the attack.

The target of the attack was Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Israeli-managed vessel. It was escorted by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. The U.S. government later said that an appropriate response was being planned.

EOD Experts Dispatched Onboard

The U.S. Navy responded to the distress call and “upon arrival, U.S. forces determined through clear visual evidence that an attack had occurred,” the Navy said.

“U.S. Navy explosives experts are aboard to ensure there is no additional danger to the crew, and are prepared to support an investigation into the attack. Initial indications clearly point to a UAV-style [(drone)] attack,” CENTCOM’s statement specified.

Zodiac Maritime, a London-based maritime company, which manages the Mercer Street, is owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.

A 2016 picture of the oil tanker Mercer Street which was attacked by drones off the coast of Oman. (AP)

According to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides maritime security information, the tanker was attacked in the Indian Ocean about 152 nautical miles northeast of Duqm, Oman, and 21 nautical miles off the coast of Oman. 

The Mercer Street was headed for Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, according to Refinitiv ship tracking. It had departed from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

The dead were one Briton and one Romanian according to the Associated Press.