Satellite images show two ships seized by Iran

Advantage Sweet and Niovi shown anchored near naval base in Bandar Abbas

The Panama-flagged oil tanker Niovi surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels in the Strait of Hormuz on May 3. AP
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Two oil tankers recently seized by Iran are anchored off the coast of one of its key port cities near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, satellite photos showed.

The photos from Planet Labs PBC showed the Advantage Sweet and the Niovi located south of Bandar Abbas near a naval base in the port city's Hormozgan province on Saturday.

Their capture represents the latest ship seizure by Iran amid tensions with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear programme.

Iran seized the Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet, staffed by 23 Indians and one Russian, on April 27 as it travelled in the Gulf of Oman.

Tehran claimed the vessel had struck another ship, though tracking data showed no erratic behaviour. Iran has made claims in the past over ship seizures to cover for the vessels being taken to use as pawns in negotiations with the West.

The Advantage Sweet carried Kuwaiti crude oil for American energy firm Chevron at the time of its capture.

The Panama-flagged Niovi was seized last week by commandos from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who surrounded the vessel with fast attack boats and forced it to sail into Iran's territorial waters.

The US navy filmed the incident and released the footage, calling Iran's actions “unwarranted, irresponsible and a present threat to maritime security and the global economy”.

The seizures come as another tanker believed to be carrying Iranian crude disappeared from anchorage off Singapore a year after being identified as trying to evade US sanctions.

The Financial Times, as well as the maritime intelligence firm Ambrey, both reported that the ship named Suez Rajan was seized by order of American authorities. US officials and those associated with the Suez Rajan have not responded to questions about the tanker's disappearance while on a westward path.

Iran seizes oil tanker after it leaves Dubai port

This US Navy handout screenshot of a video shows fast-attack craft from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy swarming Panama-flagged oil tanker Niovi as it transits the Strait of Hormuz on May 3, 2023.  - Iranian forces seized a Panama-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz early today, the US Navy said, the second such incident in less than a week.  (Photo by NAVCENT Public Affairs  /  US NAVY  /  AFP)  /  RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO  /  US NAVY /  MATTHEW FREEMAN /  - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Meanwhile, an internet account describing itself as a hacker group claimed responsibility on Sunday for allegedly taking down websites associated with Iran's Foreign Ministry.

The claims of the account GhyamSarnegouni, whose name in Farsi means “Rise to Overthrow”, went unaddressed for hours as websites of the Foreign Ministry's remained down over what was initially called “scheduled maintenance and upgrades”.

Cached versions of the websites of Iranian diplomatic posts in Munich, Germany, and Seoul, South Korea, appeared to have been defaced with a message in Farsi reading: “Death to Khamenei, Hail Rajavi.”

“Khamenei” refers to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while Rajavi is likely to refer to Massoud Rajavi, the missing leader of the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or his wife Maryam, who is now the public face of the group.

“There is a great revolution in Iran, the uprising will go until the demolition of the palace of oppression,” the message read.

Early on Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry websites were back online. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as acknowledging its websites had been hacked while trying to downplay the incident.

Updated: May 08, 2023, 7:37 AM