Iran seizes oil tanker in Gulf of Oman
The oil tanker Advantage Sweet sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands. © Yoruk Isik / Reuters
Text by: RFI Follow
An oil tanker flying the flag of the Marshall Islands and bound for the United States was seized on Thursday, April 27 in the Gulf of Oman by the Iranian army. According to the latter, the ship had tried to flee after a "collision", which caused injuries, with an Iranian ship.
The incident took place in the early afternoon in a highly strategic maritime area, an almost exclusive shipping route to connect the oil-producing countries of the Gulf to world markets. In a statement, Iran's military said the seizure was carried out after a collision. "As a result of the collision of an unknown ship with an Iranian ship in Persian Gulf waters, two crew members of the (Iranian) ship are missing and several others have been injured," she said. The ship was seized after trying to flee, "in violation of international regulations to assist the ship and the injured," she added.
According to the MarineTraffic.com website, at the time of the incident, the tanker Advantage Sweet was off Oman after leaving Kuwait for Houston, USA. It issued a distress signal after the incident, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. "The Iranian government must immediately release" the ship, she added, condemning acts "contrary to international law and threatening regional security and stability."
NAVCENT statement on Iran's unlawful seizure of a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Oman today: pic.twitter.com/EJxcsynA1m
— U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) April 27, 2023
Over the past two years, Iran has "illegally" seized at least five commercial vessels in the Middle East, according to the statement. The United States regularly criticizes Tehran's actions in this maritime area. In 2019, the Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged oil tanker, before releasing it two months later. And in 2022, an Iranian navy flotilla briefly seized two unmanned U.S. military ships in the Red Sea.
An "illegal" seizure
The incident comes amid rising tensions between Tehran and Western countries, which this week tightened sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, the Islamic Republic's ideological army, over human rights abuses. The US 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, initially claimed that the Revolutionary Guards had seized the ship, before clarifying that it was in fact the Iranian army.
On Monday, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States announced in a coordinated manner the strengthening of sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards for human rights violations. This is the seventh salvo of sanctions against Iran by the 27 since the death on 16 September of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, and the outbreak of a vast protest movement in Iran that has been repressed by the authorities.
In retaliation for the latest sanctions, Iran announced its own punitive measures against individuals and entities from the EU and the UK, while denouncing the "escalation of cruel sanctions" against the country.
► Read also: Iran, a regime more than ever in search of security?
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