Wed, 29 Sep 2021

The United States said that it believes Iranian forces hijacked the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess tanker in the Gulf of Oman but is not in a position to confirm.

'We can confirm that personnel have left the Panama-flagged Asphalt Princess, this commercial vessel that was seized yesterday. We believe that these personnel were Iranian, but we're not in a position to confirm this at this time, ' State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on August 4.

The British Navy's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations on August 4 said the hijackers who boarded the Asphalt Princess off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) had left the vessel, without elaborating.

It had warned of a "potential hijack' under unclear circumstances the day before.

SEE ALSO: NATO, EU Join Criticism Of Iran After Deadly Tanker Attack

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) denied that its forces or allies were behind any hijacking on the Asphalt Princess.

Any incident is an attempt by Western countries and Israel 'to prepare the public opinion of the international community for hostile action" against Iran, the IRGC said in a statement run on state media on August 3.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzade also called the claims of a possible hijacking 'completely suspicious."

The incident comes after Israel, the United States, and Britain accused Iran of involvement in the July 29 attack on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime.

Iran denied any involvement in the attack on the Mercer Street, which the U.S. Navy said was carried out with a suspected drone in international waters off Oman. The attack left one British and one Romanian crewmember dead.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, echoing comments from Britain, said on August 2 that there would be a collective response to the attack on the Mercer Street.

Tehran said it would respond swiftly to any threat to its security.

With reporting by Lloyds List, AP, AFP, and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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