Iran briefly seized an oil tanker flying a Liberian flag in the Strait of Hormuz, an official in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) told the Associated Press Thursday.
CENTCOM released a black-and-white video showing what were supposedly Iranian special forces rappelling from a helicopter onto the deck of the tanker. Iranian naval forces held the vessel for five hours before releasing it, a U.S. military official told AP.
Maritime intelligence group Dryad Global told AP it is also probable that two additional ships were stopped by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in the Persian Gulf over the last week.
The International Maritime Security Construct, a United States-led consortium of countries tasked with maintaining security in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, denounced Iran's boarding of the oil tanker.
"Iran's use of its military forces to conduct an armed boarding of a commercial vessel in international waters constitutes a blatant violation of international law that undermines freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce," a statement from the consortium reads. "This type of reckless, aggressive behavior by Iran destabilizes the region and threatens the rules based international order."
Tehran has repeatedly flexed its naval muscles in recent weeks. In late July, CENTCOM reported an Iranian exercise in which the Revolutionary Guard Corps launched a missile at what appeared to be a mock American aircraft carrier.