This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) says it has seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf that it says was smuggling fuel to Arab states.
An IRGC August 4 statement released by Iranian state media said that the tanker was carrying 700,000 liters of fuel around Farsi Island.
Iran’s official government news agency IRNA quoted the IRGC as saying the tanker was seized after coordination and the issuing of an order by judiciary officials.
Guards boats had been patrolling the Persian Gulf to control traffic and detect illicit trade when they seized it, the IRGC statement said.
The oil tanker was transferred to Bushehr Province, the statement said, and its cargo delivered to the department of the National Iranian Oil Product Distribution Company in the same province.
The semiofficial hard-line Fars news agency said seven crew members were detained when the ship was seized late on July 31. It did not provide further details on the vessel or the nationality of the crew.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, said it did not have information to confirm the reports.
Last month, Iran said it detained a Panama-flagged tanker for smuggling oil.
Also in July, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker for alleged violation of maritime laws.
The move came days after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar over suspicions it violated EU sanctions.
Britain has rejected the idea that it could release the Iranian tanker in exchange for the British-flagged vessel seized by the IRGC.
Tensions have soared in the Persian Gulf in past weeks amid Washington’s campaign of maximum pressure on Tehran that includes the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the reimposition of crippling sanctions.
The U.S. has boosted its military presence in the region and several oil tankers have been targeted in the Gulf of Oman in unclaimed acts of sabotage that the United States has blamed on Iran.
Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks.