DUBAI | Iranian forces boarded an oil tanker in international waters, using a helicopter and two ships to take control, the US Army Central Command (Centcom) said overnight Wednesday through Thursday.
The United States regularly accuses the Islamic Republic of carrying out hostile operations in strategic Gulf waters.
“Today, in international waters, Iranian forces, including two ships and an Iranian ‘Sea King’ helicopter, overtook and boarded a ship named ‘Wila’,” Centcom posted on Twitter.
International waters, or high seas, constitute a free maritime zone not under the jurisdiction of any State.
In the same tweet, Centcom posted a black and white video showing a helicopter hovering nearby over a ship and what appear to be two people on the deck of the ship.
The ship is currently in the Gulf of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz – a strategic crossing point where a third of the oil transported by sea in the world passes, according to the Marine Traffic site, which specializes in monitoring maritime traffic.
The boat is a chemical tanker built in 1997 and flying the flag of Liberia, the site said.
Washington and Tehran have been at daggers drawn since the United States’ unilateral withdrawal in 2018 from the Iranian international nuclear agreement and the reinstatement of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Escalating tensions between the two great adversaries have been accompanied by numerous incidents in the Gulf with ships mysteriously attacked, drones shot down and oil tankers seized.
In July 2019, the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s ideological army, boarded a Swedish tanker flying the British flag, the “Stena Impero”, accusing it of ignoring distress calls and turning off his transponder after colliding with a fishing vessel.