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‘Regional authorities’ seize vessel off UAE

A vessel has reportedly been seized off the coast of the United Arab Emirates by “regional authorities”, maritime security firms said, as tensions soared in the region.

Commandos raided the ship near the Strait of Hormuz by helicopter in an attack attributed to Iran.

Video showed the attack earlier reported by the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations.

It described the vessel as being “seized by regional authorities” in the Gulf of Oman, off the Emirati port city of Fujairah.

In the footage, commandos drop on to a stack of containers on the deck of the vessel.

A crew member can be heard saying: “Don’t come out,” and tells colleagues to go to the ship’s bridge as more commandos come down on the deck. One commando can be seen kneeling above the others to provide potential covering fire.

The footage corresponds to known details of the boarding and the helicopter involved appears to be one used by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which has carried out other ship raids in the past.

The vessel involved is likely to be the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime, which is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.

The MSC Aries had last been located off Dubai heading towards the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. The ship had turned off its tracking data, which has been common for Israeli-affiliated ships moving through the region.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West, particularly after a suspected Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria.

Iran did not immediately acknowledge seizing any vessel and there was no report by state media about the incident.

However, Iran since 2019 has engaged in a series of ship seizures and had attacks on vessels attributed to it amid tensions with the West over its nuclear programme.

The Gulf of Oman is near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all oil passes.

Fujairah, on the United Arab Emirates’ eastern coast, is a main port for ships to take on new oil cargo, pick up supplies or trade out crew.

Since 2019, the waters off Fujairah have seen a series of explosions and hijackings. The US Navy blamed Iran for limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers.

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