Iran on Thursday seized a US-bound oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, reported Al Jazeera.
The waters where the US-bound ship was seized, near the Strait of Hormuz, are a chokepoint for at least a third of the world’s seaborne oil.
Masked Iranian navy commandos conducted a helicopter-borne raid to seize a US-bound oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, footage aired by Iran’s state television showed Friday.
“A Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker was seized by the Iranian army’s naval force in the Persian Gulf after it collided with an Iranian boat in the Gulf of Oman and tried to flee,” read the Iranian Army statement, reported Al Jazeera.
In a statement issued earlier, the US Navy had said Iranian naval forces had seized the Advantage Sweet oil tanker while it had been “transiting international waters” in the Gulf of Oman.
“The Iranian government should immediately release the oil tanker,” the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet added, denouncing Iran’s “continued harassment of vessels and interference with navigational rights in regional waters”.
The capture on Thursday of the Turkish-managed, Chinese-owned Advantage Sweet represents the latest seizure by Iran amid tensions with the US over its advancing nuclear program.
While Tehran says the tanker was seized after it ran into another Iranian vessel, it has provided no evidence yet to support the claim — and the Islamic Republic has taken other ships as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West.
The footage showed the commandos descending on the deck of the Advantage Sweet by ropes from a hovering helicopter. A photograph showed one commando with his fist in the air after apparently taking the vessel.
“Advantage Sweet was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy while transiting international waters in the Gulf of Oman,” US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement.
“Iran’s actions are contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability. The Iranian government should immediately release the oil tanker,” it added.
The US Navy’s 5th Fleet has said the Iranian seizure was at least the fifth commercial vessel taken by Tehran in the last two years.
Thursday’s seizure was the latest incident in the sensitive waters of the Gulf, which carry about a third of the world’s seaborne oil, reported Al Jazeera.
Such incidents have grown more frequent since 2018 when the US withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and major powers and re-imposed crippling sanctions.
The latest seizure came only days after Western governments toughened sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in response to protests that rocked Iran since the September death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest for an alleged breach of strict dress rules for women, reported Al Jazeera.
Tensions have escalated since 2018 when then-US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a multinational accord that froze Iran’s nuclear programme and re-imposed crippling sanctions on its economy. (ANI)