An unmanned military drone is seen next to a portrait of Ali Khamenei, during a military exhibition. REUTERS./

By Aziz El Yaakoubi

 – A container ship managed by an Israeli-controlled company was hit by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean, causing minor damage to the vessel but no injuries, a U.S. defence official said on Saturday.

The Malta-flagged CMA CGM SYMI, recently renamed Mayet, was struck on Friday by an unmanned aerial vehicle, which appeared to be an Iranian Shahed-136 drone, in the northeast portion of the Indian Ocean, the official said, asking not to be named.

Iran has supplied Shahed-136 “kamikaze” drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. They carry a small warhead that explodes on impact.

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The incident comes amid heightened maritime security tensions due to the Israel-Hamas war and follows the seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo ship by Yemen’s Houthis, an ally of Iran, in the southern Red Sea earlier this week. Israel called the vessel’s seizure an “Iranian act of terrorism”.

Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS), which had rented Mayet, said it was aware a container ship was targeted in a possible security incident on Friday.

“The vessel in question is currently sailing as planned. All crew are safe and well,” EPS said in a statement sent to Reuters.

EPS is controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and its ships have previously come under similar attacks.

There was no immediate comment from Iranian and Israeli officials.

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Mayet switched off its transponder on Tuesday after leaving Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, LSEG data showed. It was unclear if it made a scheduled stop in Oman’s Sohar port on Wednesday.

The United States has blamed Iran for unclaimed attacks on several vessels in the region in the past few years. Tehran has denied involvement.

In a separate incident, Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations agency (UKMTO) said on Saturday a ship was ordered to alter course in the Red Sea by an entity declaring itself to represent Yemeni authorities and called on other vessels to exercise caution.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, additional reporting by Dubai Newsroom, Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Helen Popper)