WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Tuesday confirmed that the Iranian navy seized a cargo vessel flying the flag of the Marshall Islands – a sovereign state associated with the United States – but said that there are no U.S. citizens on board.
The container ship was intercepted Tuesday by “several patrol boats of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard navy (IRGCN) while it was in transit through territorial waters in the Straight of Hormuz,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren confirmed to Efe.
“The captain (of the cargo vessel) was contacted and was asked to enter further into Iranian territorial waters. He declined and one of the IRGCN boats fired shots across the bow of the Maersk Tigris,” Warren said.
Ultimately, the captain acceded to the “Iranian demand” and sailed further into the territorial waters of the Islamic Republic, near Larak Island, said the U.S. defense spokesman.
The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) then sent the destroyer USS Farragut to the location closest to the cargo ship and launched an aircraft to “observe the interaction” between the Tigris and the Iranian naval forces.
“NAVCENT is communicating with the representatives of the maritime company and we are monitoring the situation. According to the information received from the cargo ship’s operators, there are no Americans on board,” he said.
Earlier, Iranian state-run media reported that local authorities had ordered the ship to be impounded due to a commercial dispute.
Iran’s official English-language television channel, Press TV, also reported that naval authorities sent a warning to a U.S. naval warship present in the zone not to intervene, after the captured vessel asked for help.
The United States and Iran are currently negotiating an agreement to end the crisis over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, although the two countries still have significant differences in other areas.