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Wednesday May 22, 2024

Iran 'releases' Pakistanis aboard seized Israeli container ship

Sources say during meeting at FO, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan gave assurance about release of Pakistanis

By Azaz Syed 
April 16, 2024
Irans Revolutionary Guards seen rappelling down onto MSC Aries container ship near the Strait of Hormuz. —AFP
Iran's Revolutionary Guards seen rappelling down onto MSC Aries container ship near the Strait of Hormuz. —AFP

ISLAMABAD: Iran on Tuesday reportedly granted permission to two Pakistanis travelling on the Israeli ship, captured by the neighbouring country amid escalation in the Middle East, to return to their homeland, Geo News reported citing sources.

On the request of the hostages’ family members, the Foreign Office made endeavours which paved the way for the Pakistanis’ freedom from Iran, the sources said.

They said during a meeting at the FO in Islamabad, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Reza Amiri Moghadam gave assurance about release of the Pakistani nationals.

"Iran has informed that Pakistani personnel are free to return home," the sources said, adding that the captain of the ship has the power to disembark whenever his crew allows.

At least two Pakistanis, among the 25-member crew, were on board the cargo ship seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — the elite force that lost seven members, including two generals, in the Syria strike — near the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday.

The development came after the family of one of the Pakistani nationals onboard the Israel-linked container ship asked the government of Pakistan for help.

Muhammad Adnan Aziz — the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Portugal-flagged MSC Aries — was on the ship seized by Iran's forces, along with another Pakistani.

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

The vessel was seized by Iran amid rising tensions across the region after a deadly Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria, killing senior IRGC commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

What happened to cargo ship?

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.