LONDON (AP) — Britain's foreign secretary said Iranian authorities seized two vessels Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, actions signaling an escalation in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint in tensions between Tehran and the West.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said one of the seized ships was British-flagged and the other sailed under Liberia's flag. The crews members comprise a range of nationalities but are not believed to include British citizens, he said.
"These seizures are unacceptable," Hunt said entering an emergency government meeting to discuss securing the release of the two vessels and their crews. "It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region."
Details of what took place remained sketchy. Iran said earlier Friday that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz,
The tanker Stena Impero was taken to an Iranian port because it was not complying with “international maritime laws and regulations,” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard declared.
WASHINGTON — Iran said Friday it seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, a fresh escalation in confrontations in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint in tensions between Tehran and the West.
The website of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, sepahnews.com, said the tanker, Stena Impero. was seized Friday for “non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations” and was taken to an Iranian port. The report did not say what port.
The operator of the Stena Impero said it was unable to contact the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship has 23 crew aboard.
The British government said it was urgently seeking more information.
The incident came as Iran and the United States emphatically disagreed Friday over Washington’s claim that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf.
American officials said they used electronic jamming to bring down the unmanned aircraft, while Iran said it simply didn’t happen.
Neither side provided evidence to prove its claim.
At the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump said flatly of the Iranian drone: “We shot it down.”
But Pentagon and other officials have said repeatedly that personnel on board the amphibious assault ship Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz jammed the drone’s signal, causing it to crash, and did not fire a missile. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said, “There is no question this was an Iranian drone, and the USS Boxer took it out as the president announced yesterday because it posed a threat to the ship and its crew. It’s entirely the right thing to do.”
In Tehran, the Iranian military said all its drones had returned safely to their bases and denied there was any confrontation with the Boxer.