'5-6 armed Iranians' responsible for tanker hijack off UAE coast - report

UK: Hijackers leave vessel off UAE coast, incident ended • Iran: The potential hijack of ships off coast of UAE is 'suspicious'

An Iranian soldier stands guard near Iranian Navy helicopter carrier Kharg at Port Sudan at the Red Sea State, October 31, 2012 (photo credit: REUTERS/ MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH)
An Iranian soldier stands guard near Iranian Navy helicopter carrier Kharg at Port Sudan at the Red Sea State, October 31, 2012

"Five to six armed Iranians" hijacked the tanker in the Gulf, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, according to recorded radio traffic, AP reported on Wednesday.

The radio traffic was obtained by Argus Media, a commodities pricing firm, according to AP.
A conversation between crew members can be heard in the radio traffic, with one crew member stating that "five to six armed Iranians are on board the vessel."
When asked what the Iranians were doing on board the vessel, the crew member responded by saying he could not understand them. “We are drifting. I cannot tell you when we will get to Sohar,” he reportedly added.

The hijackers left the vessel on Wednesday morning, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported.
Oman's Maritime Security Centre said on Twitter on Wednesday that it had received information about the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess being subjected "to a hijacking incident in international waters in the Gulf of Oman" and that the sultanate's navy had deployed several ships to help secure international waters.
On Tuesday, three maritime security sources said that Iranian-backed forces had seized an oil tanker in the Gulf off the coast of the UAE.
Two of the sources identified the vessel as the Panama-flagged asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess in an area in the Arabian Sea leading to the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world's seaborne oil exports flow.

Iran's Foreign Ministry dismissed the reports of security incidents involving several ships near the UAE coast as "suspicious", and warned of any effort to create a "false atmosphere" against the Islamic Republic.

Tensions have simmered in the region after a drone attack last week on an Israeli-managed tanker off the Omani coast killed two crew members. The United States, Israel and Britain have all blamed Iran for the attack. Iran has denied responsibility.

The Bahrain-based US Navy's Fifth Fleet and UAE authorities did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment about Tuesday's incident.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), in a warning notice based on a third-party source, had earlier reported a "potential hijack" and advised ships to exercise extreme caution due to an incident around 60 nautical miles east of the UAE's Fujairah emirate.

Britain's Times newspaper also reported that the Asphalt Princess had been hijacked, citing British sources as saying they were "working on the assumption Iranian military or proxies boarded the vessel".

On Tuesday afternoon at least five ships in the sea between the UAE and Iran updated their AIS tracking status to "Not Under Command", according to Refinitiv ship tracking data. Such a status generally indicates a ship is unable to maneuver due to exceptional circumstances.

Reuters could not confirm this Refinitiv data had any connection to the reported incident.

The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to last week's attack on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime.

Iran denied involvement in that suspected drone attack and said on Monday it would respond promptly to any threat against its security.

Longtime adversaries Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations of carrying out attacks on each other's vessels in recent months.

Tensions have risen in Gulf waters and between Iran and Israel since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled its economy.


The White House called the reports of a second reported attack on a petroleum tanker in the Gulf of Oman "deeply concerning."

"We're monitoring this developing situation, and we are in close touch with London and other partners who around the world who are also monitoring," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "The first reports are deeply concerning."