Iran says it seized a 'foreign vessel' smuggling a million litres of fuel in the Strait of Hormuz

  • Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized a “foreign vessel” in the Strait of Hormuz, the state-run Mehr news agency reported.
  • It said the vessel was accused of smuggling a million litres (264,000 gallons) of fuel. Twelve foreign crew members were on board when it was seized, the news agency said.
  • The vessel’s origin and the nationalities of the crew are unclear.
  • The island where the Revolutionary Guard reportedly captured the ship is 6 miles from where a United Arab Emirates-based, Panamanian-flagged tanker went missing earlier this week.
  • A video released by the IRGC shows that the seized vessel matches the description of the missing UAE-based, Panama-flagged Riah.
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Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps has seized a “foreign vessel” it accused of smuggling a million litres (264,000 gallons) of fuel in the Strait of Hormuz, a state-run news agency reported. Many observers viewed the move as retaliation for the UK’s seizure of an Iranian tanker two weeks ago.

The Revolutionary Guard captured the ship Sunday in the south of Larak Island, Iran’s Mehr news agency reported on Thursday.

The ship had 12 crew members on board at the time, Mehr added. The news agency did not say where the vessel came from, nor did it give the nationalities of the crew.

Read more:
How the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of water where ships transport $US1.2 billion worth of oil every day, is at the heart of spiraling tensions with Iran

The reported capture comes days after a United Arab Emirates-based, Panamanian-flagged tanker was reported missing in the same region.

The MT Riah stopped transmitting its location overnight Sunday near Qeshm Island, which is located 6 miles from Larak Island.

Iran hormuz qeshm larak islandsGoogle Maps/Business InsiderThe approximate locations of where the United Arab Emirates-based oil tanker MT Riah went missing on Sunday and where Iran said its Revolutionary Guard seized a ‘foreign vessel’ around the same time.

A video released by the IRGC shows what appears to be two IRGC patrol boats circling a tanker matching the description of the Riah, and showing its name painted in huge letters on the vessel’s stern. Iran claims the vessel it seized was smuggling fuel, according to Iran’s PressTV. On Wednesday, the Islamic Republic’s state media reported that Iran had assisted a malfunctioning foreign tanker, but did not explain further, according to The Associated Press.

The Riah, a 190-foot tanker, turned off its transmiting data but did not send a distress signal, The Associated Press reported.

Tensions between Iran and the West are running high after the Royal Navy captured an Iranian oil tanker off the British territory of Gibraltar two weeks ago.

The Grace 1 tanker was suspected of transporting oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard harassed a British oil tanker in the same region a week later but eventually sailed away after a UK Royal Navy frigate aimed its weapons and issued “verbal warnings” to them, according to the UK government.

Read more: Iranian gunboats backed away in a showdown with a Royal Navy frigate after staring down the barrel of the ‘perfect weapon’

Tehran also violated a key agreement in the 2015 nuclear deal by increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium beyond its limit earlier this month. The government has vowed to continue enriching the stockpile.

The US has sent thousands of additional troops and fighter jets to the region amid the mounting tensions.

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