Iran says it has seized an oil tanker in the Arabian Gulf

The seized vessel appears to be the missing oil tanker MT Riah
Image illustrative only.
Image illustrative only.

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Iran has seized a foreign oil tanker crew accused of smuggling oil in the Arabian Gulf, according to the country's state TV.

The seizure comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran over the unravelling nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, and days after an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates disappeared in Iranian national waters.

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The Panamanian-flagged oil tanker MT Riah stopped transmitting its location overnight on Sunday near Qeshm Island, which has a Revolutionary Guard base on it, while the seized oil tanker was reportedly intercepted on Sunday in south of Iran's Larak Island in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian state TV had not identified the seized vessel at the time of writing, but the two locations are less than five nautical miles apart.

The Iranian state TV report said the oil tanker had 12 foreign crew members on board and was involved in smuggling around one million litres of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers, which would suggest a vessel around the same size as MT Riah.

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Earlier this week, a US defence official said that the US government "has suspicions" that Iran seized the oil tanker when it turned off its tracker in the Strait of Hormuz, the Associated Press reported.

An Emirati official said the small oil tanker made no distress call before switching off its tracker and that its owners and crew were not Emirati.

The 58 metre (190ft) oil tanker typically made trips from Dubai and Sharjah on the UAE's west coast before going through the strait and heading towards Fujairah on the UAE's east coast.

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