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17 Indians onboard cargo ship seized by Iran off UAE coast amid tensions with Israel: Sources

Sources said that the authorities are in touch with the Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi.

Edited By: Ashesh Mallick @asheshmallick07 New Delhi Updated on: April 13, 2024 23:48 IST
Iran, Israel, Cargo ship seized, Indians onboard ship seized by Iran
Image Source : REUTERS Helicopter raid on MSC Aries ship at sea

As many as 17 Indian nationals were onboards a cargo ship which was taken control of by Iran off the coast of UAE, sources said on Saturday (April 13). Commandos from Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled down from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel Saturday, the latest in a series of attacks between the two countries.

"We are aware that a cargo ship ‘MSC Aries’ has been taken control of by Iran. We have learnt that there are 17 Indian nationals onboard. We are in touch with the Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure the security, welfare and early release of Indian nationals," sources said.

The Middle East had braced for potential Iranian retaliation over a suspected Israeli strike earlier this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria that killed 12 people, including a senior Guard general who once commanded its expeditionary Quds Force there. 

The Israeli war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip meanwhile is now 6 months old and is inflaming decades-old tensions across the whole region. With Iranian-backed forces like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Yemen's Houthi rebels also involved in the fighting, any new attack in the Mideast threatens to escalate that conflict into a wider regional war. 

Iran's state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard's navy carried out the attack on the vessel, which other media in the country widely identified as the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime. 

Iran since 2019 has engaged in a series of ship seizures and attacks on vessels have been attributed to it amid ongoing tensions with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear program. 

In previous seizures, Iran has offered initial explanations about their operations to make it seem like the attacks had nothing to do with the wider geopolitical tensions though later acknowledging as much. In Saturday's attack, however, Iran telling offered no explanation for the seizure other than to say the MSC Aries had links to Israel. 

For days, Iranian officials up to and including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have been threatening to avenge Israel for the Syria strike. Western governments have issued warnings to their citizens in the region to be prepared for attacks.

Adrienne Watson, White House National Security Council Spokesperson tweeted, "We strongly condemn the Iranian seizure of the Portuguese flagged, British-owned MSC AIRES in international waters. The crew is comprised of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian & Estonian nationals. We call on Iran to release the vessel & its international crew immediately. Seizing a civilian vessel without provocation is a blatant violation of international law, and an act of piracy by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. It must be condemned unequivocally, & we will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions."


(With AP inputs)

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