Iran diverts Marshall Islands cargo ship in Strait of Hormuz

·Chief Washington Correspondent

Maersk Tigris in Egypt’s Damietta Port. (Photo credit: dpa.gov.eg)

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ships intercepted a Marshall Islands-flagged commercial cargo vessel in the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, forcing it “further into Iranian waters,” the Pentagon said. Multiple U.S. government sources said there were no Americans aboard the Maersk Tigris.

Several Iranian patrol craft intercepted the Tigris at 5:05 a.m. eastern time as it traveled “on an internationally recognized maritime route,” according to a statement from the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“The IRGCN contacted the vessel and directed the Maersk Tigris’ master to divert further into Iranian Waters. The master initially declined and one of the IRGCN patrol craft fired shots across the Maersk Tigris’ bow. The master then complied and diverted under escort by the IRGCN vessels,” according to the statement.

In response to a distress call, the U.S. Navy ordered the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer, “to proceed at best speed to the nearest location of the Maersk Tigris,” while reconnaissance aircraft kept track of the diverted vessel, according to the statement.

The U.S. military has been in contact with officials from the Maersk shipping company, who say that the Iranians boarded the Tigris.

The confrontation occurred as the U.S. Senate prepared to take up legislation aimed at giving lawmakers more of a say on President Barack Obama’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

While the Marshall Islands are a sovereign state, “the United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands,” according to the State Department.

The semi-official Iranian news agency Fars reported that Iran had taken control of a U.S. ship and its 34 crew for “trespassing” in its territorial waters, Reuters said.

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