[Ed. – This move comes within hours of four other ships reporting loss of propulsion and steering in the Gulf of Oman, at least one of them said by Iranian news to have struck a mine. Iran is also suspected in the four similar casualties. It’s not clear exactly what’s going on, but it’s likely that these are signs of Iran acting up and trying to pose a threat to shipping in the Strait of Hormuz chokepoint.]
Iranian-backed forces are believed to have seized an oil tanker in the Gulf off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, three maritime security sources said, after Britain’s maritime trade agency reported a “potential hijack” in the area on Tuesday.
Abolfazl Shekarchi, Iran’s senior armed forces spokesman, denounced reports of maritime incidents and hijacking in the Gulf area as “a kind of psychological warfare and setting the stage for new bouts of adventurism,” the Fars News Agency said.
Two of the maritime sources identified the seized vessel as the Panama-flagged asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess in an area in the Arabian Sea leading to the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for about a fifth of the world’s seaborne oil exports.
The U.S. State Department said it was concerned and looking into reports of a maritime incident in the Gulf of Oman, but that it was too early to offer a judgment.