Washington (dpa) – Five armed Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats on Wednesday unsuccessfully attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Gulf, according to US media reports.
The tanker was entering the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow strategic shipping route for oil that passes between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, when it was approached by the Iranian vessels, CNN and Fox News reported, citing unnamed US officials.
The Iranians ordered the tanker to stop in Iranian territorial waters, but a British naval vessel escorting the tanker aimed its guns at the Iranian boats and warned them to move away, which they did, the reports added.
Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesperson said the US was aware of the reports, and added: “Threats to international freedom of navigation require an international solution.”
There was no immediate comment on the reports, which said the incident was filmed by a US aircraft overhead, from either Iran or Britain.
Britain last week impounded an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar, on the southern tip of Spain, on suspicion of violating EU sanctions against Syria.
The move sparked a diplomatic row between Britain and Iran, with Tehran summoning the British ambassador. It also came at a time of escalating tensions over shipping in the Gulf and the faltering Iran nuclear deal.
General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday the US was attempting to build a military coalition to protect shipping in the region.
“We are engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab el Mandab,” Dunford said.
The US would provide “maritime domain awareness and surveillance,” Dunford told reporters in Virginia.
Washington has accused Tehran of being behind a series of recent attacks against commercial vessels near the Strait of Hormuz.
Last month, President Donald Trump came close to ordering an airstrike in retaliation against Iran for shooting down a US spy drone near the Strait.
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