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Iran releases impounded cargo ship

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Reuters: Iranian naval forces have released a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship impounded on Tuesday in the Persian Gulf. Early news reports said that the Maersk Tigris, with a full crew on board, was directed towards the Iranian island of Qeshm near the southern port of Bandar Abbas after it was intercepted by the Iranian navy. According to Al-Arabiya news channel, the navy fired at the ship and its 34 crew members.

Singapore-based Rickmers Maritime, the company that has chartered the Maersk Tigris, said 24 crew members, mainly from Eastern Europe and Asia were on board. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said that there were 34.

“Our paramount concern is the safety and well-being of the crew,” said ship owner Maersk in a media statement. “We are working in close dialogue with Rickmers to obtain information about the seizure and explore options to help resolve this situation.”

The US Department of Defence confirmed the news, saying that an Iranian navy vessel fired shots at the container ship and steered it towards an Iranian port while sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said that the shots were fired when the Maersk Tigris’s captain refused to halt and change direction. The Pentagon also denied that the vessel had entered Iranian territorial waters, noting that a US destroyer in the gulf is following developments.

No official statement was issued by the White House or the Iranian government. However,Al-Jazeera quoted Iranian sources as saying that Tehran had released the ship and that none of the crew members were detained. Iran denied that its navy fired at the ship.

Reuters said that the US Navy fifth fleet in Bahrain has not yet commented on the news. Last week, the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, escorted by the guided missile destroyer USS Normandy, took up station off the coast of Yemen to deter Iranian ships in the area.