FIVE Iranian boats reportedly tried to seize a British oil tanker off Iran yesterday – forcing a Royal Navy frigate to train its weapons on them.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard tried to take control of the vessel as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz – sparking a tense standoff in the Persian Gulf, US officials said.
But the HMS Montrose quickly trained its 30mm deck guns on the enemy fleet and warned them off, they added.
The British Heritage tanker was being escorted through the flashpoint region by the Montrose amid feverish tensions between Iran and the West.
But the Navy frigate was scrambled into action when the rival boats reportedly approached the oil tanker and demanded it change course into Iranian waters.
According to the anonymous officials, the Montrose came up from the rear of the tanker and aimed its fierce weapons at the Iranians – before issuing a verbal warning to get away.
The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed
One of the officials said: “The Royal Navy HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed.”
The other added: “It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage.”
A US aircraft was flying overhead at the time and recorded footage of the standoff, the officials said.
The Sun Online has contacted the Ministry of Defence for comment.
TANKER SPOOKED DAYS EARLIER
Responding to the reports, US Central Command spokesman Cpt Bill Urban said: “Threats to international freedom of navigation require an international solution.
“The world economy depends on the free flow of commerce, and it is incumbent on all nations to protect and preserve this linchpin of global prosperity.”
Defence officials have previously confirmed that the Montrose had been deployed to the region to perform a “maritime security role.”
The British Heritage ship – operated by BP – earlier made an “abrupt” u-turn and returned to the safety of Saudi Arabia’s coastline on Sunday.
It had been heading to Iraq’s Basrah terminal when satellite trackers showed it mysteriously changing course.
The attempted capture comes just days after British Royal Marines seized an Iranian crude oil supertanker off Gibraltar.
Commandos dramatically detained the Grace 1 tanker over suspicions it was carrying oil to its ally Syria in violation of EU sanctions last week.
Iran later issued a chilling threat of retaliation for Thursday’s daring raid.
President Hassan Rouhani warned on Wednesday that the UK will suffer the “consequences” for its actions.
He said: “I tell the British that they are the initiator of insecurity and you will understand its consequences later.”
And Iran’s Major General Mohammad Bagheri warned the seizure of the Grace 1 “will not go unanswered”.
Tensions continue to rise between Iran and the West after the Islamic Republic last week announced it was upping its uranium enrichment programme.
Tehran plans to increase its production beyond the limits imposed by the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal – which the US walked away from earlier this year.
US President Donald Trump said the deal had been too soft – but it was still supported by other western backers including the UK.
Following Iran’s announcement, Trump vowed on Wednesday that sanctions on Iran would “soon be increased, substantially!”
Last month, President Trump called off a planned airstrike on Iranian military targets at the last minute in retaliation for the shooting down of an unmanned US drone.
Iran had earlier been blamed for devastating sea mine attacks on US-linked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.