U.S. says Iran forces boarded ship in global waters

Elias Hubbard
August 14, 2020

US Central Command posted footage on Twitter, which it said showed the moment two Iranian ships and a helicopter overtook the ship.

The Iranian navy held the vessel for five hours before eventually releasing it on Wednesday, a USA military source said.

Iranian special forces boarded an oil tanker and seized it for hours near the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the US.

The four vessels, called Luna, Pandi, Bering and Bella, were seized on the high seas in recent days and are now en route to Houston, the WSJ said https://on.wsj.com/3auMVJ2, citing the officials, adding that senior administration officials are expected to meet the tankers at an event scheduled to mark the docking.

The Iranian helicopter involved appeared to be a Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King, which only Iran's navy operates and has been using for decades to help disrupt maritime traffic in the region.

The seizure of the tanker, called the "Wila", took place in worldwide waters, Central Command wrote on its Twitter post.

U.S. military officials did not offer any reason for Iran seizing the vessel.

The Wila's registered owner is a Liberian firm called Bandit Shipping, managed by Greek firm IMS SA, UN records show. Iranian state media and officials did not immediately acknowledge the seizure or offer a reason for it.

As Breitbart News reported, past year a series of attacks on mercantile trade saw the USA launch a retaliatory campaign, dubbed Operation Sentinel, which worked to ensure ships can exercise freedom of navigation through the strategic strait without restraint by hostile forces.

Tensions have escalated since 2018 when US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a multinational accord that froze Iran's nuclear programme, and reimposed crippling sanctions on its economy.

In July 2019, Iran briefly seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf after Britain seized the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.

Centcom provided no other details but the incident could rekindle some of the tension in the region from past year.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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