Oil tanker in the Persian Gulf (archive)
Oil tanker in the Persian Gulf (archive)iStock

Iran tested a suicide drone against a practice vessel in the Gulf and fired one other missile or drone without warning ships in the area, a US official in the region said on Thursday, according to the Reuters news agency.

The one-way drone was launched on Wednesday from the Jask area of Iran 8-9 miles out to sea - within Iran's territorial waters - against a practice barge, the official said, citing US intelligence data.

"Essentially practicing hitting merchant vessels. That's the only reason why you would do that in the Gulf of Oman," the official was quoted as having said.

Iranian officials were not available to comment.

The United States has accused Iran of being behind a number of attacks since 2019 against merchant vessels in strategic Gulf waters.

Last month, US officials said that, in the past two years, Iran has harassed, attacked or interfered with the navigational rights of 15 internationally flagged commercial vessels.

Those comments came after Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet on April 27 as it traveled in the Gulf of Oman. Six days later, it seized a second ship, the Niovi, a Panama-flagged tanker as it left a dry dock in Dubai.

The Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway for global energy supplies, has often been a site of tense encounters between Americans and Iranian forces.

In early December, an Iranian patrol boat tried to temporarily blind US Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz by shining a spotlight toward the vessels and crossing within 150 yards of them.

The Islamic Republic has threatened more than once to close the Strait of Hormuz, with the United States warning Iran in response that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a "red line" -- grounds for US military action.