The Iran Revolutionary Guard claimed Friday to have seized a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz after the ship’s owners had said it lost contact with the the vessel, according to CNBC.
The tanker, named the Stena Impero and operated by Northern Marine Management, was headed toward its destination of Saudi Arabia when it was seized, per The BBC.
“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a spokesman for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence said.
There were 23 individuals on board when the ship was approached by a helicopter and other “unidentified small crafts,” The BBC said.
Iranian State TV reported Friday that the IRGC took the British tanker and turned it over to maritime authorities along Iran’s coast.
In a statement, ship owner Stena Bulk confirmed it had lost contact with the Stena Impero as it headed north toward Iran.
CNBC reported that the seizure of the British tanker Friday occurred less than a month after the British Royal Ministries captured an Iranian ship over fears it was violating European sanctions and transporting oil to Syria. Earlier this week the Iranian government asked for that ship to be released, but a British court extended an order keeping the ship in British hands.
According to a CNN report, the United States government was aware the tanker had been seized.
“This is the second time in just over a week the UK has been the target of escalatory violence by the Iranian regime,” National Security Counsel Spokesman Garrett Marquis said. “The U.S. will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran’s malign behavior.”
The British government convened an emergency meeting about the reports, per an ABC News tweet.
MORE: The British government has convened an emergency meeting at the highest level in response to the possible seizure, a senior UK official, speaking on background to @ABC News, confirms. https://t.co/fOlYi8qJtN
— ABC News (@ABC) July 19, 2019
The rising tensions between the two nations mirror rising tensions between Iran and the United States. In June, the Trump administration said that Iran attacked two vessels in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. later released video of what it said depicted Iranian boats removing an unexploded mine from one of the ships, per CNN.
Later in June, the Iranian government announced that it had shot down a U.S. drone, claiming it entered the country’s airspace. In response, the president issued new sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation. In July, Trump announced that the U.S. had taken an Iranian drone out of the sky after he alleged it flew too close to a U.S. ship and refused to turn back, CNN reported.
According to the statement from Stena Bulk, the company did not currently believe that anyone aboard the tanker was injured and said that the safety of the 23 aboard was its top priority.