Fujairah (dpa) – Just days after a deadly drone attack on an oil tanker, Iran is now also being held responsible for a possible hijacking of a ship in the Gulf of Oman.
The British Times reported, citing government sources, that a “force” of eight or nine gunmen had brought the tanker “Asphalt Princess” under their control. The government in London assumes that Iran or its affiliated militias are responsible for the kidnapping. The British Foreign Office said it was “urgently investigating an incident on a ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates”.
The British Maritime Warning Center (UKMTO) had previously warned of an “incident” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. A region about 60 nautical miles east of the emirate of Fujairah was affected. All ships in the vicinity must exercise extreme caution due to a “possible hijacking,” it said. There was initially no official confirmation of the incident.
“Asphalt Princess” sails under Panamanian flag
According to the company Dryad Global, which specializes in maritime security, the “Asphalt Princess” sails under the Panamanian flag. The Omani Air Force was in action with naval reconnaissance aircraft in the area, it said. The website «Flightradar24» showed that a reconnaissance aircraft was circling over the area in question. The Gulf of Oman is located between Oman and Iran. Ships enter the Persian Gulf through the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz. The route is considered one of the most important sea links for international trade.
Iran’s foreign ministry warned against unfounded allegations. “These ongoing incidents involving the ships in the Persian Gulf are extremely questionable and suspicious,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Chatibsadeh, according to Isna news agency. Above all, the incidents should not be used as a pretext for carrying out certain political goals in the region. The safety of shipping in the Persian Gulf is extremely important to Iran, which is why Tehran stands ready to offer its assistance.
Incidents are increasing
The situation in the region is particularly tense for shipping. There are always incidents there. Most recently, just under a week ago, a British man and the Romanian captain were killed in a drone strike on the “Mercer Street” oil tanker off the coast of Oman. The ship is operated by the British company Zodiac Maritime. The chairman of the Zodiac group is Israeli businessman Ejal Ofer, who also owns shares in the group, according to media reports.
Britain, Romania, Israel and the US blame Iran for the incident. Britain and Romania have each appointed the Iranian ambassadors. “This was clearly an unacceptable and disproportionate attack on commercial shipping,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. Tehran must face the consequences of its actions. Iran rejected an implication just days before the inauguration of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
One of the many reasons for the tensions in the Middle East that have increased in recent years is the dispute over the international nuclear deal with Iran. The US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in May 2018. Since then, there have been several incidents and acts of sabotage against oil tankers and attacks on oil facilities in the Gulf. In recent months, cargo ships owned by Israelis have been attacked again and again – presumably by Iran. In April, an Iranian freighter was also slightly damaged in an explosion in the Red Sea. According to reports in the New York Times, this attack originated in Israel.