Syria-bound Iranian tanker seized by UK off Gibraltar

Syria-bound Iranian tanker seized by UK off Gibraltar Image: Penny Mordaunt MP

The British military has detained an Iranian crude tanker in the waters off Gibraltar after it received intelligence that the vessel was transporting oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

A boarding team composed of Royal Marines stormed the 300,000-tonne Grace 1 in the early morning hours (local time) of Thursday, July 4, after the United States sought the UK's assistance in intercepting the vessel.

Gibraltar chief minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement that US and UK authorities have reason to believe the tanker was transporting crude oil to Syria's Baniyas Refinery, which is said to be owned by an unnamed entity that was subject to EU sanctions.

Iranian officials have meanwhile called for the immediate release of the tanker, condemning the seizure as an act of "piracy."

Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, tweeted that the British ambassador to Tehran has been summoned over what has been described as the "illegal" detention of Grace 1.

The seizure of the tanker was a "destructive" act on the part of the UK that could only serve to increase already heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, Mousavi added.

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