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Iran’s Revolutiony Guard says its forces seized British tanker

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Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian and U.S. officials said Friday.

The development comes amid a dispute between Iran and the Trump administration over claims that the U.S. had shot down an Iranian drone, also in the strait, marking the latest escalation in tensions.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Donald Trump declined to say whether the ship seizure by Iran crosses a “red line” or how the U.S. might respond. But he noted that the U.S. has a maritime security agreement with the United Kingdom.

“It goes to show you I was right about Iran,” Trump said en route to a weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

The IRGC said its naval forces had seized the Stena Impero tanker for allegedly violating maritime rules and regulations in the Persian Gulf, the semi-official FARS news agency reported.

“UK tanker ship, Stena Impero, has been detained by the vessels unit of the IRGC Navy’s First Naval Zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office of Hormuzgan province for disregarding international maritime rules and regulations as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz this afternoon,” said a statement from the IRGC, reported FARS. 

The IRGC said the ship had been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormuzgan province and that control was transferred to the Ports and Maritime Organization “for further legal procedures and investigations.”

FARS noted British marines and Gibraltar police had seized an Iranian tanker in early July for allegedly transporting crude oil to Syria in violation of international sanctions.  

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said in response, “[the British] commit crimes and make it appear legal,” and vowed that Iran would “respond in a proper opportunity and place.”  

In London, the British defense ministry said in a statement that it was “urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf.”

More: Iran says U.S. may have shot down its own drone by mistake

More: Trump takes aim at Iran with new sanctions on Hezbollah member Salman Raouf Salman

The company that owns the tanker said in a statement that the vessel, with 23 people aboard, was approached by “unidentified small crafts” and a helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz, Reuters reported.

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran,” the company said.

It said there had been no reported injuries.

Regarding the drone incident, Trump said Friday there is “no doubt” that a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone, despite Iranian denials that it lost an unmanned aircraft.

He said earlier that the USS Boxer took the action after an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.

Neither Trump nor the Pentagon spelled out how the Boxer destroyed the drone or provided any video or other evidence from the incident. Several U.S. officials said the ship used electronic jamming to bring it down rather than hitting it with a missile. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record about the event.

National security adviser John Bolton said, “there is no question this was an Iranian drone and USS Boxer took it out.”

An Iranian news agency reported Friday that the country’s armed forces say all Iranian drones in the Persian Gulf returned safely to their bases.

Iran said on Thursday that the IRGC seized a foreign oil tanker, the Panamanian-flagged tanker MT Riah. and its crew of 12 for smuggling fuel out of the country.

Contributing: Associated Press

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