Iranian-backed forces are believed to have seized an oil tanker in the Gulf off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, three maritime security sources said, after Britain's maritime trade agency reported a "potential hijack" in the area on Tuesday.
Two of the sources identified the vessel as the Panama-flagged asphalt/bitumen tanker Asphalt Princess in an area in the Arabian Sea leading to the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for about a fifth of the world's seaborne oil exports.
Iran's Foreign Ministry had earlier said reports of security incidents involving several ships near the UAE coast on Tuesday were "suspicious", and it warned of any effort to create a "false atmosphere" against the Islamic Republic.
Tensions have simmered in the region after an attack last week on an Israeli-managed tanker off the Omani coast killed two crew members and was blamed on Iran by the United States, Israel and Britain. Iran denied responsibility.
The Bahrain-based U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet and UAE authorities did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment about Tuesday's incident.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), in a warning notice based on a third party source, had earlier reported a "potential hijack" and advised ships to exercise extreme caution due to the incident around 60 nautical miles east of the UAE's Fujairah emirate.
Britain's foreign ministry is "urgently investigating" an incident on a vessel off the UAE coast, a spokesperson said.
The Times of London newspaper also reported that the Asphalt Princess had been hijacked, citing British sources as saying they were "working on the assumption Iranian military or proxies boarded the vessel".