TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards have seized a ship suspected of fuel-smuggling and arrested 16 Malaysian crew members, state media reported on Monday (Dec 30).
The website of IRIB state television said the Guards confiscated 1.3 million litres of "smuggled fuel" from the unnamed vessel 15 nautical miles from Abu Musa island.
"The ship's 16 crew who are of Malaysian nationality were arrested," the Guards' naval commander for the region, Brigadier-General Ali Ozmayi, was quoted as saying.
Abu Musa is one of three islands in the southern Gulf that are under Iranian control but claimed by the United Arab Emirates.
"This is the sixth ship smuggling fuel that (the Guards') navy has confiscated," added Ozmayi.
In September, Iran seized a boat and arrested 12 Filipino crewmen from a suspected fuel-smuggling ring in the Strait of Hormuz, state media reported.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detained a "foreign tanker" in Gulf waters on July 14 for allegedly smuggling contraband fuel.
Iran also seized another ship on July 31 with seven foreign crew aboard over fuel smuggling, but it never revealed the vessel's identity or the nationality of its crew.
Tensions have been high in the Gulf this year, after the United States stepped up a stated campaign of "maximum pressure" on Iran following its withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal in 2018.
The escalation saw ships mysteriously attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized in the Strait of Hormuz - a chokepoint for a third of world's seaborne oil.
And on July 19, the Guards seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero for allegedly hitting a fishing boat and released it two months later.
Meanwhile, Malaysia is working to identify the ship and its Malaysian crew members, said Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, when contacted by Bernama news agency.