Two Pakistanis on board Israeli-linked ship seized by Iranian forces

LONDON: Two Pakistanis among the 25-member crew were on board the cargo ship seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) near the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday.

One of the Pakistani nationals is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the cargo ship, whose family has asked the government of Pakistan for help.

Family sources told The News that there are two Pakistanis who were on the ship seized by the Iranian armed forces and one of them is Muhammad Adnan Aziz, the COO of the Portugal-flagged MSC Aries.

His family lives in Karachi and Azad Kashmir and some of his relatives live in London who shared their worries with this correspondent.

They confirmed that Aziz, along with another Pakistani, was on the ship seized by Iran’s forces. “This morning, we approached the Foreign Office seeking help for the safe return of Muhammad Adnan Aziz as soon as possible. The FO has assured us of all help. We understand that the matter has been taken up with the Iranian authorities already.”

The family members said they were shocked after learning that Iran had seized the ship near the Strait of Hormuz amid rising tensions across the region after a deadly Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria.

They clarified that Aziz had nothing to do with the ownership of the ship or the regional issues. “He was just doing his job as a professional and was seized. We want his release and return,” shared the family members.

The ship was commandeered by the IRGC, the elite force that lost seven members, including two generals, in the Syria strike.

“The ship has now been guided towards the territorial waters of our country,” state-run IRNA reported.

The vessel — identified as the Portugal-flagged MSC Aries — had departed from a port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) en route to India. It is associated with the London-based Zodiac Maritime, a part of the Zodiac Group run by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer and his family.

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the ship’s crew comprised of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian, and Estonian nationals, and pushed back against the vessel’s seizure.

Footage from the deck of the vessel showed soldiers rappelling down from a helicopter.

The helicopter appeared to be a Soviet-designed Mil Mi-17, which is operated by the naval forces of the IRGC.

Zodiac Maritime said in a statement that MSC, an Italian-Swiss shipping group, was responsible for all vessel activities.

MSC confirmed there were 25 crew members on board the ship, adding in a statement that it is “working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel”.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) had said a vessel was seized by “regional authorities” 50 nautical miles (92km) northeast of the UAE’s Fujairah in a waterway vital to world trade.

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