Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seizes one UK-operated tanker in Strait of Hormuz, briefly detains another

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Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz Friday and briefly detained a second, marking a fresh escalation of tensions between Tehran and the West.

The U.K.-flagged Stena Impero, which has 23 crew members of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationalities aboard, “was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters,” Stena Bulk, the shipping company that owns the vessel, said in a statement. “We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran.”

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces, in a statement on their website, say the ship was seized for “non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations” and is being brought to an unnamed Iranian port, according to the Associated Press. Websites tracking the ship’s path showed it turn sharply in the direction of Iran’s Qeshm Island, instead of its intended destination of Saudi Arabia.

“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a U.K. government spokesperson told Fox News.

Stena Bulk says “there have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers.”Video

Approximately an hour later, a Liberian-flagged tanker Mesdar was also seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and was seen on maritime tracking services making a turn toward Iran. However, the tanker’s owner later said the ship was briefly boarded by armed guards before being allowed to go. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency tweeted that the Mesdar had left Iran’s territorial waters.

“These seizures are unacceptable,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said as he prepared to enter an emergency government meeting Friday night. “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.” – read more

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