US sanctions Iranian drone program commander for attacking transport ship

The United States has also sanctioned a number of other individuals and companies linked to Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program.

The sanctions come three months after the drone attack on the ship Mercer Street, which was off the coast of Oman at the time – an assault that escalated tensions in the region, sparked a united outcry from the coalition of G7 nations and the United States wishes for a coordinated response.

The announcement of new sanctions also comes a week after a drone attack on a US base in Syria that a US official attributed to Iran and days after the radical Raisi government in Iran said it would take over the positions. Iran nuclear deal negotiations after months of delay. .

According to the US Treasury Department, Brigadier General Saeed Aghajani oversees the IRGC Aerospace Force’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) command and “directs the planning, equipment and training” of its operations.

“Under his leadership,” the Treasury Department said on Friday, the UAV command orchestrated the attack on Mercer Street in late July that left two crew members dead.

The Treasury Department said in a press release that “Aghajani was also behind a UAV attack on a Saudi oil refinery in 2019”.

“Iran’s proliferation of drones in the region threatens international peace and stability. Iran and its proxy militants have used drones to attack US forces, our partners and international shipping,” the secretary said. Deputy Treasury Wally Adeyemo in a statement.

A team of experts from the US Department of Defense concluded in August that the drone behind the deadly attack on Mercer Street was produced in Iran.

The investigative team discovered that the tanker was targeted by three explosive drones, one of which was successful in causing “significant damage” to the vessel and required “a calculated and deliberate retargeting of M / T MERCER STREET by the ‘Iran “, according to the central command.

“The use of Iran-designed and manufactured ‘kamikaze’ one-way attack drones is a growing trend in the region,” the US Central Command said. “They are actively used by Iran and its proxies against coalition forces in the region, to include targets in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.”

The US team shared evidence with British and Israeli explosives experts, the statement said, and “both partners agreed with the US conclusions.”

Iran has denied any involvement in the attack, which was jointly condemned by the coalition of G7 nations.

The foreign ministers of these countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union – the called “a deliberate and targeted attack and a flagrant violation of international law.”

“All the available evidence clearly points to Iran. There is no justification for this attack,” they said in a joint statement in early August, a day after extremist Ebrahim Raisi was sworn in as president. from Iran.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.

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