The Iranian Navy has opened fire on a commercial tanker ship in international waters near the coast of Oman, according to the US Navy Central Command and US Department of Defense.
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US assets prevented two attempted commercial tanker seizures by the Iranian Navy before deploying MQ-9 Reaper and P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft for surveillance on 5 July.
“One Iranian naval vessel approached the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker TRF Moss in international waters in the Gulf of Oman,” according to a statement from US Naval Forces Central Command.
“The Iranian vessel departed the scene when US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived on station.
“Three hours later, the US Navy received a distress call from Bahamian-flagged oil tanker Richmond Voyage. Another Iranian naval vessel had closed within one mile of Richmond Voyager while hailing the commercial tanker to stop.
“Prior to McFaul’s arrival on scene, Iranian personnel fired multiple, long bursts from both small arms and crew-served weapons. Richmond Voyager sustained no casualties or significant damage. However, several rounds hit the ship’s hull near crew living spaces. The Iranian navy vessel departed when McFaul arrived.”
Since 2021, Iran has harassed, attacked or seized nearly 20 internationally flagged merchant vessels, according to the US Navy.
The US has increased rotation of ships and aircraft patrolling the Strait of Hormuz following an uptick in Iranian merchant vessel seizures.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said Iranian officials were intercepting the vessels for alleged illegal oil smuggling.
“There was doubt, in terms of the operational activities of this commercial vessel, the potential that it was illegally smuggling oil,” he said.
“These two commercial oil tankers both hailed, requested assistance, both unprovoked in terms of the attack from Iran. In one case … firing upon those vessels.
“Clearly, the information that Iran has put out is inaccurate. I think their record speaks for itself.”
Brig Gen Ryder said the US will continue to work very closely with partners in the region to step up patrols and ensure the deterrence of aggressive behaviour.