April 22, 2010 / 9:59 AM / 8 years ago

Iran says fended off pirate attack on oil tanker

TEHRAN, April 22 (Reuters) - Iranian naval forces intervened to repel a pirate attack on an oil supertanker with a cargo worth $150 million, the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.

It said the incident took place in the Gulf of Aden in recent days, without giving details. The Iranian tanker, carrying 300,000 barrels of oil, was continuing its journey from Iran to Egypt, IRNA added.

Iran is the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter.

Somali sea gangs have made off with millions of dollars in ransoms by roaming the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and seizing vessels and their crews.

Maritime experts say the pirates have stepped up attacks, largely due to good weather that favours their operations.

“An attack by pirates in the Gulf of Aden aimed at hijacking an Iranian oil tanker was aborted through the timely intervention of the Iranian navy,” IRNA said, citing a navy statement.

“Fifteen boats took part in the attempted piracy but they were forced to flee the scene.”.

On Wednesday, Somali pirates threatened to blow up a hijacked oil supertanker unless a $20 million ransom was paid and captured a Panama-flagged merchant ship.

South Korea sent a destroyer to intercept the Samho Dream, laden with 2 million barrels of crude oil, and its crew of five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos, after it was seized this month.

The pirates have extended their reach southwards and towards India to avoid a flotilla of foreign navies patrolling the waters off Somalia. (Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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