Iran reportedly seizes tanker in Persian Gulf carrying 'smuggled fuel'

Iran says its guards boats were patrolling the Gulf to control traffic and detect illicit trade

Iranian forces seized a foreign oil tanker in the Gulf that was smuggling fuel to Arab states and has detained seven crewmen, Iran's state media reported on Sunday.

The crash came amid recent tensions in the Gulf between the U.S. and Iran, as well as after the latter announced earlier Sunday it had captured a foreign tanker it said was smuggling fuel to an unnamed Arab state in the region.

It was carrying 700,000 liters of fuel, he said.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards drive speedboats in front of an oil tanker at the port of Bandar Abbas on July 2, 2012.

This would mark the third vessel seized by the Guard in the past two weeks, and the second accused of smuggling fuel.

According to Fars news agency, which is considered close to the elite Revolutionary Guards, seven foreign crew members were arrested during the operation which it said was carried out Wednesday.

On 18 July, the Guards said they detained the Panama-flagged MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling.

A day later, they announced they had impounded British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules".

The tensions are rooted in President Donald Trump's decision past year to withdraw the USA from Iran's 2015 nuclear accord with world powers and impose sweeping sanctions on the country.

After several attacks in May and June on oil tankers - blamed by Washington on Tehran, which denied responsibility - Trump has been trying to forge a military coalition to secure Gulf waters, though European allies have been loath to join for fear of provoking open conflict. No further details on the ship or the nationalities of the crew were given.

The ship does not seem to have been noted as missing.

On the diplomatic front, officials in Iran said Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, had been hit with U.S. sanctions after turning down an invitation to meet Trump in Washington.

"The seizure of the oil tanker was in coordination with Iran's judiciary authorities and based on their order", Fars quoted him as he as saying.

Iran also shot down a USA surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz in disputed circumstances.

The oil tankers, operated by British companies, were seized in worldwide waters.

They were, however, unable to prevent the seizure of the Stena Impero.

The UK said the Iranian oil tanker was suspected of violating European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.



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