A British military agency warns that a potential hijacking is underway in the Gulf of Oman.
The warning comes as several tankers in the area have signaled they are “not under command”.
At least one ship was reportedly boarded by eight or nine armed individuals.
A British military agency warned on Tuesday that a hijacking could be underway off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman, where several tankers have reported losing control.
UK maritime trade operations, which are part of the UK Department of Defense, reported earlier today that “an incident is currently underway” about 60 nautical miles east of the port of Fajairah.
An update from the agency, which serves as a capability for the British Royal Navy, says the incident has been “turned into a potential hijack.” No further details were provided.
Reuters, citing maritime security sources, reported that Iranian-backed forces seized an oil tanker. Security sources told Sky News that the tanker Asphalt Princess had been unlawfully boarded by eight or nine people.
“It was an unauthorized embarkation in the Gulf of Oman,” a security source told British media.
Amid reports of a possible hijacking of an oil tanker, the Associated Press, citing information from MarineTraffic.com, reported that four tankers – the Queen Ematha, the Golden Brilliant, the Jag Pooja and the Abyss – broadcast via the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that their ships were “not under command”.
This broadcast status usually indicates that a vessel has lost the ability to maneuver properly at sea due to exceptional circumstances. One of the ships then started to move, according to the AP.
In a Reuters tracking report, which cited Refinitiv’s vessel tracking data, the outlet said the number of affected vessels was up to five. Reuters did not identify the vessels. It is not known whether the fifth ship was the Asphalt Princess or whether reports of “unordered” ships are linked to a possible hijacking.
The events unfolding in the Gulf of Oman, which are still unclear at this time, follow an attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman with an apparent suicide drone. The US, UK and Israel blamed the tanker attack, which killed two crew members, on Iran.
Iran has denied any involvement in the attack, although it has previously used suicide drones to carry out attacks abroad.
In recent years, the waters in which the current incident is taking place have seen a number of mine attacks and hijackings, often amid tensions involving Iran.
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