September 20, 2021, 2:22 am

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Panama’s flagship hijacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates

International Desk :

International media have reported that armed men hijacked a Panamanian-flagged ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman.

According to the BBC, Lloyds List Maritime Intelligence has confirmed that the ship was ordered to sail to Iran. The bitumen tanker MV Asphalt was heading towards the Princess Hormuz system, they said.

While it is not clear who intercepted the ship, analysts have pointed to Iranian forces as suspects.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have dismissed the reports as an excuse to take “hostile action” against Tehran.

The incident comes less than a week after two security guards were killed in a drone strike on an Israeli-owned ship off the coast of Oman. One of the two security guards killed was a British national and the other a Romanian national.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Israel have blamed Iran for the attack, but Tehran has strongly denied it.

The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner says MV Asphalt Princess is owned by a Dubai-based company, and two years ago the Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized one of their ships.

He said that according to various reports, nine armed men climbed into the MV Asphalt Princess after approaching the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. State Department says it is watching reports of a shipwreck in the Gulf of Oman and is concerned; However, it is not clear who did it.

The White House described the news as “extremely worrying.”

U.S. officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the U.S. military was considering taking up position on a nearby ship to monitor Asphalt Princess.

They said they were considering doing so to monitor the situation without taking any immediate military action.

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said it had launched an urgent investigation into reports of a shipwreck off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Earlier, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) advised ships near Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman to exercise extreme caution.

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