Iran’s Revolutionary Guard reportedly seizes ship in Gulf over ‘smuggled fuel’

State media says vessel crewed by Malaysians was carrying 1.3 million liters of fuel; seizure comes as Iranian, Russian and Chinese navies hold unprecedented joint drill

Iranian military personnel ride in a patrol boat as they take part in the 'National Persian Gulf Day' in the Strait of Hormuz. (ATTA KENARE / AFP/File)
Iranian military personnel ride in a patrol boat as they take part in the 'National Persian Gulf Day' in the Strait of Hormuz. (ATTA KENARE / AFP/File)

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Monday seized a ship in the Persian Gulf suspected of carrying smuggled fuel, state media reported.

The official IRNA news agency said the seized ship was carrying more than 1.3 million liters of fuel near Abu Musa Island at the mouth of the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

All 16 crew members, who are Malaysian nationals, were also detained, the report added. It did not say under what country’s flag the ship was sailing.

The Guard patrols the Iranian side of the Persian Gulf waters and has seized several ships in the area in the past year.

In July, Iran also seized a British-flagged oil tanker, amid high regional tensions over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers. It also seized a United Arab Emirates-based oil tanker.

The latest incident came as Iran’s navy on Friday kicked off an unprecedented joint naval drill with Russia and China in the northern part of the Indian Ocean. The four-day exercise, launched from the southeastern port city of Chahbahar in the Gulf of Oman and near the border with Pakistan, is aimed at boosting security of the region’s waterways, state TV quoted Iran’s navy chief Adm. Hossein Khanzadi as saying.

On Saturday, a top Iranian navy official said the three countries sought to establish “full security of shipping lines” in the region.

Iranian flotilla chief, Rear Admiral Gholamreza Tahani, added that the nations were cooperating to counter “common maritime threats,” according to Tehran’s Fars news agency. Iranian state television called the three countries “the new triangle of power in the sea.”

In November, the US launched a naval coalition from Bahrain aimed at protecting shipping in the troubled waters in the Gulf. The launching of the US-led international effort followed a string of attacks on oil tankers and Saudi oil facilities in the region that Washington and its allies blamed on Iran, a charge it denies. Australia and the UK are the main countries participating in the US-led coalition.

Most European governments have declined to participate, fearful of undermining their efforts to save the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which was badly weakened by Washington’s withdrawal last year.

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