U.S. says Iranian forces fire on and board cargo ship in Gulf
DUBAI/WASHINGTON | By Noah Browning and David Alexander
(Reuters) — Iranian forces boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Gulf on Tuesday after patrol boats fired warning shots across its bow and ordered it deeper into Iranian waters, the Pentagon said.
U.S. planes and a destroyer were monitoring the situation after the vessel, the MV Maersk Tigris, made a distress call in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important oil shipping channels.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted an unidentified source who sought to play down the incident, saying it was a civil matter with no military or political dimension. But the Pentagon described it as an apparent provocation.
Under the accord Tehran, which denies seeking to build nuclear weapons, would win sanctions relief in return for slashing the number of its uranium enrichment centrifuges and accepting intrusive international inspections.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television earlier said an Iranian force fired on and seized a U.S. cargo ship with 34 U.S. sailors on board, and directed it to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. But the Pentagon spokesman said there were no U.S. citizens on board the ship.
The company managing the vessel told a Danish news channel there were 24 crew members, mostly from eastern Europe and Asia.
Reuters tracking data showed the Maersk Tigris, a 65,000-tonne container ship, off the Iranian coast between the islands of Qeshm and Hormuz. It had been listed as sailing from the Saudi port of Jeddah, bound for the United Arab Emirates port of Jebel Ali.