A UK Special Forces team has been deployed to Yemen to track down those behind last week’s drone attack on a tanker in the Persian Gulf that killed a British security guard, the Daily Express has revealed.
The newspaper claimed that 40 Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers arrived in eastern Yemen on Saturday, and that the team includes an electronic warfare unit capable of intercepting communications chatter.
According to the news outlet, the servicemen will also rely on local handlers, who have received payment from the Foreign Office and have “knowledge of the region” to help the SAS team hunt down the alleged attackers. The Daily Mail added that London apparently believes the Iran-backed Houthi rebels carried out the attack on the tanker with support from Tehran.
REUTERS / RULA ROUHANA
Mercer Street, an Israeli-managed oil tanker that was attacked off the coast of Oman, is seen near Fujairah Port in United Arab Emirates, August 3, 2021.
The newspaper cited unnamed UK military sources as saying that “everything points to the drone being launched from Yemen. The concern now is that an extended-range drone will give them a new capability”.
Yemen has been engulfed in an armed conflict between government forces led by its President-in-exile Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi movement since 2014. An Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, often launches strikes to support the internationally-recognised Hadi government, while the Houthis continue to maintain control over vast parts of the north of the country, including the capital of Sanaa.
Tehran Condemns ‘Baseless’ G7 Accusations Against Iran Over Tanker Attack
The Daily Express report comes a few days after the Iranian Foreign Ministry denounced accusations by the G7 of attacking the Mercer Street tanker in the Gulf of Oman.
“We strongly condemn the baseless statement by the G7 foreign ministers and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in which they made baseless accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran”, spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement on Saturday. Earlier, the G7 put the blame for the attack on Iran, claiming that Tehran had violated international law and endangered the peace in the region.
The claims were preceded by UK Ambassador to the United Nations Barbara Woodward stating that even though “the door for diplomacy and dialogue remains open”, Britain will seek to hold Iran accountable over the tanker attack if Tehran “chooses not to take” a diplomatic route.
Woodward said the UK was confident Tehran was behind the incident, claiming that “based on the assessment of the data, the system used in the attack was an Iranian sharp-edge 136 UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] … manufactured only in Iran”.
At least two people died after the MV Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime was attacked off the coast of Oman on 30 July. Israel was quick to point the finger at Saeed Ara Jani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ UAV Command, with Tehran rejecting all the accusations.