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18 Indians Among 23 Sailors on Seized British Tanker, Govt Says It's in Touch With Iran | Top Developments

The Swedish-owned Stena Impero has 23 crew and they are all on the ship off Bandar Abbas. Eighteen crew were Indian, including the captain, and the rest were from the Philippines, Latvia and Russia.


Updated:July 20, 2019, 6:35 PM IST

Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker Friday and briefly detained a second vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, intensifying tensions in the strategic waterway of the Gulf region that has become a flashpoint between Tehran and the West. The seizing of the British tanker marked perhaps the most significant escalation of tensions since May when the US announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and additional troops to Middle East, citing some kind of threats posed by Iran.

Here are the top developments:

1. The Stena Impero got into an accident with an Iranian fishing boat before it was seized, Iranian officials said, the country's semi-official Fars News agency reported. The general director of Hormuzgan Province’s Ports and Maritime Organization told Fars that the fishing boat attempted to signal to the tanker but was ignored. After it was seized by Iranian forces, the Stena Impero was then taken to Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port, Fars reported. All 23 crew members are going to be held on board until the investigation ends, according to Fars.

2. There are Indian nationals among the 23 people who are onboard the British tanker, company owner Stena Bulk has said. According to a report in AFP, 18 sailors are from India, including the Captain, and the rest were from the Philippines, Latvia and Russia. The ministry of external affairs (MEA) said that it was in touch with Iran over the issue. "Our Mission is in touch with the government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals," they said in a statement.

3. The company also said that the vessel is no longer under the control of the crew after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in international waters. "There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remain our primary focus," Stena Bulk said in a statement.

4. US official said that Iran has also seized a second tanker, the Liberian-flagged MV Masdar. However, Masdar was allowed to carry its course after Iranian officials followed up with the ship on its environmental regulations and it's no longer in the Iranian waters."All crew are safe and well," Mesdar's manager, Norbulk Shipping UK, said in a statement confirming that the ship had been released."Communication has been re-established with the vessel and Master confirmed that the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage," it said.

5. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps accused the oil tanker of "violating international regulations". Meanwhile, UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the seizure "unacceptable" and said "it is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region."

6. "These seizures are unacceptable," Hunt said as he prepared to enter an emergency government meeting Friday night. "It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.""We're not looking at military options, we're looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation, but we are very clear that it must be resolved," Hunt later told Sky News, warning that if the situation is not resolved quickly "there will be serious consequences."

7. The ongoing showdown has caused jitters around the globe, with each maneuver bringing fear that any misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war.

8. President Donald Trump said US officials would talk with Britain about the unfolding crisis."This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran: Trouble, nothing but trouble," he said. He also noted the "US has very few tankers going in because we're using a lot of our own energy," but said the American presence in the region was still robust.

9. The incident came two days after Washington claimed that a US warship downed an Iranian drone in the strait. Iran denied that it lost an aircraft in the area. On June 20, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment.

10. Tensions in the gulf region have been escalating since Trump withdrew the US last year from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports. The sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard.

11. The Europeans — Germany, France, Britain, and the European Union — want to maintain the deal, but have not been able to address Iranian demands without violating the sanctions. Iran has begun breaching some of the restrictions on its activities outlined in the agreement to put pressure on them to find a solution.

12. Crude oil prices climbed following Iran's announcement about the Stena Impero as traders worried the escalating tensions could affect crude supplies.

(With inputs from AP)

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