DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran seized a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman last month and still holds the vessel off Bandar Abbas, two US officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
One of the officials said paramilitary Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops took control of the MV Southys on October 24 at gunpoint. US forces had monitored the seizure, but ultimately didn’t take action as the vessel went into Iranian waters.
A motive for the seizure remains unclear. Officials in Vietnam could not be immediately reached for comment. Ship-tracking data analyzed by the AP from MarineTraffic.com showed the vessel still off Bandar Abbas on Tuesday.
The two US officials spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be made public amid ongoing attempts to restart talks in Vienna with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal.
The officials spoke to AP after Iranian state television offered a series of contradictory reports earlier Wednesday about a confrontation between the Guard and the US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet. It described the incident as also happening in the Gulf of Oman, with the US Navy detaining the vessel and the Guard bringing it back to the Islamic Republic.
The US officials dismissed Iran’s version of events. Tehran did not provide details of the ship’s name, nor any explanation of why the Navy targeted it.