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U.S., U.K, and Israel blame Iran for fatal drone attack on oil tanker

Washington — The U.S. joined the U.K. and Israel in blaming Iran for the drone attack that killed two crew members of the oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman last week. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement Sunday said the U.S. is "confident" Iran conducted the attack, which killed a U.K. national and a Romanian national last Thursday. Blinken said Iran is increasingly employing the "lethal capability" of one-way explosive drones in the region.

The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied responsibility for the attack. 

The U.S. is working with partners to consider next steps and consulting with governments on an appropriate response, according to the statement from the State Department. 

On Monday, both the U.K. and Romania summoned the Iranian ambassadors to London and Bucharest respectively to discuss the attack on the Mercer Street.

A U.S. defense official said there had been an unsuccessful attack attempted the day before that was then followed by the attack on Thursday that killed the two crew members. 

The U.S. Navy responded to an emergency distress call after the attack. The USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher escorted the ship to safety. U.S. Navy explosives experts were on board, U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Friday. 

Defense officials on Friday suspected Iran conducted the attack because Iran is the principal user of one-way explosive drones, which are also known as suicide drones. The drone is loaded with explosives that are set to explode when the drone makes impact. 

The Mercer Street is a Japanese vessel managed by Zodiac Maritime, which is reportedly led by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. 

There have been a number of incidents in the region in the past few months. Three other Israeli-linked ships have reportedly been attacked in 2021, including the Helios Ray, the Hyperion Ray, and the Tyndall. 

The attack on the Mercer Street is the first to result in deaths, and the first to draw a response from the State Department attributing the attack to Iran.

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