Iran-backed forces seize tanker, maritime sources say; Iran denies it

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Mercer Street, an Israeli-run tanker that was attacked last week, is seen off the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on August 3, 2021. REUTERS / Rula Rouhana

  • Oil tanker seized in Arabian Sea off United Arab Emirates – maritime sources
  • Iranian guards deny role, see pretext for attack on Iran
  • UK Maritime Trade Agency reports possible ‘hijacking’
  • US investigation reports say it’s too early to pass judgment
  • Tensions in the Gulf have been high since the US left the 2015 Iran nuclear deal

DUBAI / LONDON, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Iranian-backed forces have reportedly seized an oil tanker in the Gulf off the United Arab Emirates, three maritime security sources said, after the UK’s Maritime Trade Agency reported a “potential diversion” in the region on Tuesday.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards have denied that Iranian forces or their allies were involved in any action against a ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, claiming the incident was a pretext for “hostile action” against Tehran, state television reported on its website. Read more

Two of the maritime sources identified the seized vessel as the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess oil tanker, in an area of ​​the Arabian Sea leading to the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for around one-fifth of global oil exports by sea. .

The US State Department said it was concerned and was investigating reports of a maritime incident in the Gulf of Oman, but it was too early to tell. The British Foreign Office was “urgently investigating” an incident on a ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a spokesperson said. Read more

Tensions simmered in the region after an attack last week on an Israeli-run tanker off the Omani coast killed two crew members and was blamed on Iran by the United States, Israel and the United States. Britain. Iran has denied any responsibility. Read more

UK Maritime Commercial Operations (UKMTO), in a warning notice based on a third-party source, had previously reported a “potential hijack” and advised vessels to exercise extreme caution due to the incident about 60 nautical miles east of the emirate of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. .

HACKING REPORTS

The Times of London newspaper also reported that the Asphalt Princess had been hijacked, citing British sources as saying they were “working on the assumption that the Iranian military or proxies had boarded the ship.” Read more

The U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet and UAE authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Hinting at the news, the Saudi foreign minister told a US think tank in an online appearance that he saw an emboldened Iran acting negatively in the region, including endangering shipping. L1N2PA1RV

On Tuesday, at least five ships sailing between the UAE and Iran updated their AIS tracking status to “Not Under Command,” according to Refinitiv’s ship tracking data. Such a status generally indicates that a vessel is unable to maneuver due to exceptional circumstances.

Reuters could not confirm that this Refinitiv data was related to the reported incident.

The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to last week’s attack on Mercer Street, a Japanese Liberian-flagged tanker operated by Israeli company Zodiac Maritime.

Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged drone strike and said it would respond to any threats to its security.

Tensions have increased in Gulf waters and between Iran and Israel since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Tehran nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that crippled its economy.

Longtime adversaries Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations of carrying out attacks on each other’s ships in recent months.

Additional reporting by Dubai Newsroom, Elizabeth Piper in London, Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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