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In touch with Iran to secure early release of 18 Indians on board seized oil tanker: MEA

Meanwhile, Iran has opened an investigation into the tanker as it alleged that the ship collided with a fishing vessel in the Strait of Hormuz.

SNS | New Delhi |

After reports stated that 18 Indians are among the 23 crew in the British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran, the Ministry of External Affairs on Saturday said that the government was in touch with the Iranian government to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals.

Eighteen Indians, including the captain, and nationals from the Philippines, Latvia and Russia were on board the Stena Impero when Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) seized the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday for breaking “international maritime rules” as tensions mount in the highly sensitive waterway.

“The British vessel was captured for failing to respect the international maritime rules while passing through the Strait of Hormuz,” said a statement released by Public Relations of the IRGC.

The oil tanker was delivered to Iran’s Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization at the Iranian coast for further legal procedures, the statement added.

Britain meanwhile, has claimed that Iran had seized two ships in the Gulf, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warning of “serious consequences” if the issue was not resolved quickly.

However, the other ship, the Liberian-flagged Mesdar was set free after it was temporarily boarded by armed personnel, the owner of the tanker said.

Tanker tracking service Marine Traffic showed that the Swedish-owned Stena Impero last signalled its location near the Island of Larak in the highly sensitive waterway, according to a report in AFP.

The ship was transiting the Strait of Hormuz and in “international waters” when it was “attacked by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter,” the owner said.

Meanwhile, Iran has opened an investigation into the tanker as it alleged that the ship collided with a fishing vessel in the Strait of Hormuz.

The incidents came hours after a court in Gibraltar said it would extend by 30 days the detention of an Iranian tanker seized two weeks ago in an operation aided by British Royal Marines on allegations of breaching EU sanctions against Syria.

The latest incident came as President Donald Trump insisted Friday that the US military had downed an Iranian drone that was threatening an American naval vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, despite denials from Tehran.

The incident came as IRGC announced that it had seized a foreign ship “smuggling fuel” in the Gulf on Thursday, days after reports of a British tanker being harassed in the region.

Iran categorically denied the allegation and deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi tweeted that American forces may have shot down a US drone by mistake.

The latest escalation comes more than a year after Washington unliterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and began ratcheting up sanctions against Tehran.