FIVE Iranian boats reportedly tried to seize a British oil tanker off Iran yesterday – forcing a Royal Navy frigate to train its weapons on them.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards tried to take control of the vessel as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz – sparking a tense standoff in the Persian Gulf, US officials said.
The British Heritage oil tanker, pictured, was travelling through the Strait of Hormuz yesterday when it was approached by a fleet of Iranian military boats, according to US officialsCredit: Shuttershock
The HMS Montrose was escorting the tanker when it was forced to scramble into action and warn off the Iranian vessels, it was claimedCredit: AFP – Getty
But the HMS Montrose quickly trained its 30mm deck guns on the enemy fleet and warned them off, CNN reported.
The British Heritage tanker was being escorted through the flashpoint region by the Montrose amid feverish tensions between Iran and the West.
But the Navy frigate was scrambled into action when the enemy boats reportedly approached the oil tanker and demanded it change course into Iranian waters.
According to the anonymous officials, the Montrose came up from the rear of the tanker and aimed its fierce weapons at the Iranians – before issuing a verbal warning to get away.
TANKER SPOOKED DAYS EARLIER
A US aircraft was reportedly flying overhead at the time and recorded footage of the standoff, the officials said.
The Sun Online has contacted the Ministry of Defence for comment.
But responding to the reports, US Central Command spokesman Cpt Bill Urban said: “Threats to international freedom of navigation require an international solution.
“The world economy depends on the free flow of commerce, and it is incumbent on all nations to protect and preserve this linchpin of global prosperity.”
Defence officials have previously confirmed that the Montrose had been deployed to the region to perform a “maritime security role.”
The British Heritage ship – operated by BP – earlier made an “abrupt” u-turn and returned to the safety of Saudi Arabia’s coastline on Sunday.
It had been heading to Iraq’s Basrah terminal when satellite trackers showed it mysteriously changing course.
The attempted raid comes just days after British Royal Marines seized an Iranian crude oil supertanker off Gibraltar.
Commandos dramatically detained the Grace 1 tanker over suspicions it was carrying oil to its ally Syria in violation of EU sanctions last week.
Iran later issued a chilling threat of retaliation for Thursday’s daring raid.
President Hassan Rouhani warned on Wednesday that the UK will suffer the “consequences” for its actions.
He said: “I tell the British that they are the initiator of insecurity and you will understand its consequences later.”
And Iran’s Major General Mohammad Bagheri warned the seizure of the Grace 1 “will not go unanswered”.
Tensions continue to rise between Iran and the West after the Islamic Republic last week announced it was upping its uranium enrichment programme.
Tehran plans to increase its production beyond the limits imposed by the Iran Nuclear Deal – which the US walked away from earlier this year.
US President Donald Trump said the deal had been too soft – but it was still supported by other western backers including the UK.
Following Iran’s announcement, Trump vowed on Wednesday that sanctions on Iran would “soon be increased, substantially!”
Last month, President Trump called off a planned airstrike on Iranian military targets at the last minute in retaliation for the shooting down of an unmanned US drone.
Iran had earlier been blamed for devastating sea mine attacks on US-linked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Montrose trained its weapons on the Iranian fleet as it gave a verbal warning for them to back off, it was reportedCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Defence officials have previously confirmed that the HMS Montrose has been deployed to the region amid a tense standoff between Iran and the West
Two oil tankers were destroyed by mines suspected to have been planted by Iranian forces last month
The Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marines off Gibraltar after being suspected of illegally transporting oil to Syria – in violation of international sanctions
The Sun · by Neal Baker · July 11, 2019