A ROYAL Navy frigate was forced to train its weapons on three Iranian boats that tried to seize a British oil tanker off Iran yesterday.

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard 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 revealed.

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Shuttershock

The British Heritage oil tanker, pictured, was travelling through the Strait of Hormuz yesterday when it was approached by Iranian military boats, according to US officials[/caption]

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Reuters

The HMS Montrose was escorting the tanker when it was forced to scramble into action and warn off the Iranian vessels, it was claimed[/caption]

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The frigate’s 30mm guns were trained on the enemy boats as they approached the British tanker (file image)
News Group Newspapers Ltd
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The HMS Montrose (pictured firing a missile on exercise in 2013) trained its guns on the Iranian ships
Crown Copyright

But HMS Montrose quickly trained its 30mm deck guns on the enemy boats and warned them off, they added.

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 rallied into action when the rival boats 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 weapons at the Iranians – before issuing a verbal warning to get away.

The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed

US official

One of the officials said: “The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed.”

The other added: “It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage.”

A US aircraft was flying overhead at the time and recorded footage of the standoff, the officials said.

Confirming the standoff, a Government spokesperson urged Iran to “de-escalate the situation in the region”.

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BRITISH RESPONSE

The Government spokesman said: “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.

“HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away.

“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif denied that the Islamic Republic’s boats were involved in the incident.

He said: “They make a claim to create a tension that these claims are not worthwhile, and raised many claims.”

Mr Zarif also said “England” was attempting to “cover their weakness ” while blasting America for engaging in “economic terrorism” referring to the sanctions imposed on Tehran by Washington.

Initial reports from the US said that five Iranian vessels had harassed the tanker.

TANKER SPOOKED DAYS EARLIER

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.”

UK 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 changing course.

COMMANDO RAID

The attempted capture 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 last Thursday’s daring raid.

President Hassan Rouhani warned on Wednesday that the UK will suffer “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”.

HEIGHTENED TENSIONS

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 2015 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 a series of devastating sea mine attacks on US-linked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

 

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Two oil tankers were destroyed by mines suspected to have been planted by Iranian forces last month

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Reuters

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[/caption]

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EPA

Iran’s President Rouhani had vowed ‘consequences’ for Britain’s dramatic seizure of an Iranian tanker bound for Syria[/caption]


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