US Navy called in after Iran fires at cargo ship in Persian Gulf Pentagon says Iranians board Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris; Iran says ship is owned by US, held over financial dispute

 


Iranian patrol vessels fired warning shots across the bridge of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel that was traversing the Strait of Hormuz in Iranian territorial waters, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The comment came after a Saudi report claimed Tehran had captured a US ship and detained 34 soldiers aboard.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the cargo ship’s master had initially refused an Iranian order to move further into Iranian waters, but after the warning shots were fired the MV Maersk Tigris complied.

The cargo ship then “complied with the Iranian demand and proceeded into Iranian waters in the vicinity of Larak Island,” Warren said.

Warren said the cargo ship had been boarded by Iranians, but no one had been injured and no Americans were involved.

“It is inappropriate” for the Iranians to have fired warning shots across the ship’s bridge in those circumstances, Warren said, adding that it was too early to know whether the Iranian intervention amounted to a violation of the freedom of navigation through a waterway heavily used by international shipping.

Warren said the cargo ship issued a distress call and the US Naval Forces Central Command, based in the area, sent a US destroyer and an aircraft to the area of the incident to monitor the situation.

The destroyer was directed “to proceed at best speed to the nearest location of the Maersk Tigris,” he said.

Warren said the US government has “certain obligations” to defend the interests of the Marshall Islands, but he was uncertain how those obligations apply in this situation.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted an Iranian source saying the ship was owned by US and was stopped over a monetary dispute between Iran’s port authority and the ship’s owner.

“The ship was seized after a relevant court order was issued for its confiscation,” the source said.

The source told Fars the crew members were of various nationalities, including Europeans. He added that Americans could be aboard.

Maersk, based in Copenhagen, said the ship was chartered to Rickmers Ship Management, based in Hamburg, Germany. Maersk said it had no information about the crew or the cargo.

An earlier report by Saudi TV station al-Arabiya claimed the ship was taken to the southern port of Bandar Abbas and the crew members detained.

According to an earlier report in Fars, the Iranian Navy “confiscated the American trade vessel” because it was “trespassing” in Iran’s territorial waters.

The confrontation came amid heightened tensions in the region as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies carry out airstrikes in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

The United States is providing intelligence and aerial refueling for the Saudi-led coalition.

 

 Source: Times of Israel
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