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Iran seizes British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz international waters

Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in Great Prophet IX Maneuver in the general area of Strait of Hormuz, Persian Gulf. February 2015. (sayyed shahab-o- din vajedi/Wikimedia Commons)
July 19, 2019

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claimed Friday that it has confiscated a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz’s international waters.

Iran’s state-run media is reporting that the IRGC “seized” the British-flagged oil tanker, according to the BBC.

RT posted video that is reportedly of the incident, but it has not been confirmed by news outlets.

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According to news site Rudaw, the British oil tanker was seized because it was “violating international maritime rules and regulations,” per Iran’s Fars News.

The Strait of Hormuz is a major international waterway that connects the Gulf of Oman, which opens up the Indian Sea, to the Persian Gulf, or Arabian Gulf, where Iran and Saudi Arabia have large stretches of coastline. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait also share coastlines with the Persian Gulf, and Iraq has a small coastline, as well.

This is not the first time this summer that Iran is accused of harassing ships trying to traverse the Strait of Hormuz.

In June, two oil tankers were hit in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran, one reportedly hit by a torpedo. The Norwegian-owned Front Altair was allegedly hit by a torpedo, news outlets reported, and it was on fire in the Gulf. The Kokuka Courageous tanker also suffered damages after the suspected attack.

Iran was immediately suspected of having coordinated the hits. The tankers were near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most strategic, heavily trafficked waterways, where one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes through. The attacks also took place near the location where Iran was accused of sabotaging four tankers in May.

Tensions between Iran and Britain have had escalated this month. The British Royal Navy seized an Iranian oil tanker, and Iran has been calling for its release.

And just yesterday, it was reported that Iran had tried to seize a foreign tanker on July 14 with 12 crew members on board.

Earlier in July, several Iranian ships from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) tried to stop a British oil tanker and its accompanying frigate as they tried to traverse international waters into the Strait of Hormuz.

U.S. officials familiar with the incident had told CNN that Iran tried to seize the British tanker in the Persian Gulf.

At least three Iranian ships approached the British Heritage tanker as it was coming out of the Persian Gulf and heading into the Strait of Hormuz, reportedly trying to “divert the Heritage from international to Iranian waters,” according to a British Ministry of Defense official, CNN had reported.

Then the British HMS Montrose, which had been accompanying the Heritage from the rear, approached the Iranian ships and “got between them and issued a verbal warning to withdraw,” the official said.

The U.K. says that three Iranian ships tried to divert its oil tanker, while the U.S. says there were five, according to CNN. The U.S. also reportedly took overhead video footage of the incident from an aircraft, but that has not been released.