Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized an Iraqi oil tanker in the Gulf which they said was smuggling fuel and detained seven crewmen, Iran’s state media reported on Sunday, in a show of power amid heightened tension with the West, Trend reports citing Reuters.
The vessel was intercepted near Iran’s Farsi Island in the Gulf, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said. The elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has a navy base on Farsi Island which is located north of the Strait of Hormuz.
“The IRGC’s naval forces have seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf that was smuggling fuel for some Arab countries,” the Guards commander Ramezan Zirahi told state TV.
The state news agency IRNA, quoting the Guards, said it was an Iraqi ship that was seized on Wednesday night in the Gulf.
Zirahi said it was carrying 700,000 liters of fuel, without elaborating on the nationalities of the detained crewmen.
“The boats of the IRGC navy were patrolling the area to control traffic and detect illicit trade when they seized the tanker,” Fars quoted Zirahi as saying, adding that the seizure was in coordination with Iran’s judicial authorities.
Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy state subsidies and the fall of its currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling by land to neighboring countries and by sea to Gulf Arab states.
“The tanker was transferred to the Bushehr port, where its fuel was handed over to the authorities,” Zirahi told TV.
A spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said they had no information to confirm the media reports.
Iran’s English-language Press TV aired a video that it said “shows the process through which the IRGC have halted the ship and taken it into custody”. “The ship was seized in Iranian territorial waters and had been transporting diesel fuel,” it added.
Another oil tanker, the Panama-flagged MT Riah, was captured by the elite force last month for allegedly smuggling fuel.