British forces in Yemen to hunt for tanker drone attackers

British SAS land in Yemen to hunt for tanker drone attackers
3 min read
09 August, 2021
A 40-strong team of Britain's Special Air Service (SAS) forces arrived in eastern Yemen on Sunday, according to UK media.
The Mercer Street was struck by a drone killing two people [Getty]

British special forces in Yemen are hunting down those responsible for a drone strike on a tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which killed two people on 30 July, according to UK media reports.

A 40-strong team from the Special Air Service (SAS) arrived in eastern Yemen on Sunday, The Daily Express reported, to target Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who are believed to be behind the strike.

The team landed at Al-Ghaydah airport, in the south-eastern governorate of Mahra, and will work in conjunction with a US special forces team already stationed in the region to train an elite Saudi commando unit.

General Sir Nick Carter, head of Britain's Armed Forces, has called for Western retaliation for the attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street, which killed the vessel's Romanian captain and a British crew member.

"What we need to be doing is calling out Iran for its very reckless behaviour," Carter said.

According to the report, UK authorities believe Houthi mercenaries acted on behalf of Tehran to carry out the strike after receiving a long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Today’s #satellite image, August 6, 2021, of the #MercerStreet tanker that is currently off the coast of Fujairah, UAE and was the target of an unmanned aerial vehicle. pic.twitter.com/bSXHg5ddaq

— Maxar Technologies (@Maxar) August 6, 2021

The drone was allegedly launched from eastern Yemen and directed by GPS towards the tanker before an operator took control for the final mile, guiding the device via a camera until it struck the ship's bridge.

The attack took place some 152 nautical miles northeast of the Omani port of Duqm, as the vessel cruised from Tanzania to UAE.

The first two attacks launched at the ship on the evening of 29 July missed their target, but a third drone launched early on 30 July and loaded with a military-grade explosive hit the pilot house and exploded, leaving a 2-metre diameter hole and killing the two men.

The UK, US and Israel have blamed Iran for the attack. The oil tanker is managed by the Zodiac Group, a firm owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

While Iran has denied its involvement, the UK mission is expected to send Tehran a clear message that it will not tolerate such attacks in international waters.

The European Union on Sunday issued a statement condemning the drone attack, saying that "all available evidence clearly points to Iran".

The EU's High Representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, said: "Such reckless and unilateral actions, against international law and threatening to international peace, are unacceptable and need to stop."

"Freedom of navigation must be guaranteed in accordance with international law."