Israeli-linked oil tanker seized off the coast of Aden, Yemen, private intelligence firm says

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An unknown force has seized an oil tanker linked to Israel off the coast of Aden, Yemen, a private security firm said Sunday.

The Central Park, managed and owned by Zodiac Maritime, was seized in the Gulf of Aden, private intelligence firm Ambrey said.

It wasn’t immediately clear who was behind the attack. Aden is held by forces allied to Yemen’s internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition that has battled Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for years. That part of the Gulf of Aden in theory is under the control of those forces and is fairly distant from Houthi-controlled territory in the country. Somali pirates also are not known to operate in that area.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast, did not immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press. Ambrey said that it appeared that “U.S. naval forces are engaged in the situation and have asked vessels to stay clear of the area.”

London-based Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, has been targeted previously amid a wider yearslong shadow war between Iran and Israel. In 2021, a drone attack assessed by the U.S. and other Western nations to have been carried out by Iran killed two crew members aboard Zodiac’s oil tanker Mercer Street off the coast of Oman.

Zodiac also did not immediately respond to questions from the AP.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, had earlier issued a warning to sailors that “two black-and-white craft carrying eight persons in military-style clothing” had been seen in the area. It issued another warning saying that radio traffic suggested a possible attack had occurred.

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The Central Park seizure comes after a container ship, CMA CGM Symi, owned by an Israeli billionaire came under attack Friday by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean as Israel wages war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an American defense official said Saturday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he is not allowed to discuss intelligence matters.

The attacks come as global shipping increasingly finds itself targeted in the weekslong war that threatens to become a wider regional conflict — even as a truce has halted fighting and Hamas exchanges hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

With the Israel-Hamas war — which began with the militant Palestinian group’s Oct. 7 attack — raging on, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship in the Red Sea off Yemen.

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