Iran says it has seized British oil tanker in the Gulf

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The vessel was seized by 'small crafts and a helicopter' at 7:30pm local time, the owner of the vessel said in a statement [Stena Bulk]

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said its forces have captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly violating international laws, amid rising tensions in the Gulf.

The Stena Impero tanker "was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules", the IRGC's official website Sepahnews announced.

The tanker "was led to the shore and handed over to the organisation to go through the legal procedure and required investigations", it said.

The vessel was seized by "small crafts and a helicopter" at 7:30pm local time (1500GMT), the owner of the vessel, Stena Bulk, and Northern Marine Management said, adding that they are "presently unable to contact the vessel".

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Tanker tracking service Marine Traffic showed that the UK-flagged, Swedish-owned Stena Impero last signalled its location near the Island of Larak in the highly sensitive waterway at 9pm local time (1630 GMT).

There are 23 crew members on board, the company's statement added.

"We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf," a spokesperson for Britain's Ministry of Defence said.

The seizing of the British tanker comes a day after the IRGC said it had seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil with a crew of 12 on Sunday.

The Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, the world's most important waterways for the transport of oil, has become a hotspot for tensions with Iran amid a spate of incidents there.

Relations between Britain and Iran and the United States and Iran have soured in particular.

Earlier this month, British Royal Marines seized an Iranian oil tanker off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar for allegedly violating sanctions against Syria.

On Friday, Gibraltar's Supreme Court extended for 30 days the detention of the seized Iranian supertanker, Panama-flagged Grace 1, which was intercepted off the southern tip of Spain on July 4.

Can Iran close Hormuz Strait?

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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