Panama says withdrawing flag from tanker towed to Iran, cites violations

This undated photo provided by Iranian state television's English-language service, Press TV, shows the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker MT Riah surrounded by Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels. (Press TV via AP)
Updated 21 July 2019

Panama says withdrawing flag from tanker towed to Iran, cites violations

  • Panama has recently withdrawn flags from dozens of vessels, some of which were operated by Iran
  • It is not clear which country or company owns and operates the Riah

PANAMA CITY: Panama’s maritime authority said on Saturday it had begun the process of withdrawing the registration of an oil tanker called MT Riah, which was towed to Iran after it disappeared from ship tracking maps in the Strait of Hormuz on July 14.
Panama began the flag withdrawal process on Friday after an investigation determined the tanker had “deliberately violated international regulations” by not reporting any unusual situation, the authority said in a statement.
“We roundly condemn the use of Panamanian flagged ships for illicit activities,” the authority said in a statement.
Panama, which has the largest shipping fleet in the world, has recently withdrawn flags from dozens of vessels, some of which were operated by Iran.
It is not clear which country or company owns and operates the Riah.
The latest development follows the British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker accused of violating sanctions on Syria. Panama said that ship had been removed from its registry on May 29.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei branded the British action “piracy,” and Iran threatened to retaliate.
Iran recently said it towed a vessel into its waters from the strait after the ship issued a distress call. Although Tehran did not name the vessel, the Riah is the only ship whose recorded movements appear likely to match that description.
US officials have said they are unsure whether the tanker was seized by Iran or rescued after facing mechanical faults as Tehran asserts, creating a mystery at sea at a time of high tension in the Gulf.
Earlier this month, Panama’s maritime authority said it would withdraw its flag from more vessels that violate sanctions and international legislation, following the removal of about 60 ships linked to Iran and Syria from the Panamanian registry in recent months.
Washington has called for greater security for ships in the Gulf.


Dozens killed near Sanaa as army targets rebel supply lines

Updated 8 min 10 sec ago

Dozens killed near Sanaa as army targets rebel supply lines

  • Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News on Thursday that a large number of Houthis were killed after army troops resumed an offensive

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Houthi militia fighters and loyalist soldiers have been killed in heavy fighting outside the rebel-controlled Yemeni city of Sanaa, local army commanders said.

Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News on Thursday that a large number of Houthis were killed after army troops resumed an offensive aimed at cutting supply lines and expelling rebel fighters from the city.

“The national army is making major territorial gains on the battlefield. Dozens of Houthi militia fighters have been killed and the national army soldiers are counting the dead,” Majili said by telephone from the city of Marib.

A number of loyalist troops had died in fighting to seize control of several mountain locations in Nehim, he added.

Clashes intensified outside Sanaa on Sunday, a day after a drone and missile strike killed more that 110 government soldiers at a mosque near a military training camp. The army vowed to punish Houthis for the deadly attack.

Nehim is the closest battlefield to Sanaa, but there have been no major territorial gains since 2016 when government forces pushed deeper into Houthi areas and seized control of the Faradhat Nehim military base.

Military commanders say the difficut terrain and thousands of land mines planted by rebels have slowed their advance. 

Saudi-led coalition warplanes carried out dozens of airstrikes on Houthi military sites and reinforcements.

“There is a great air support and soldiers’ morale is high,” Majili said.

State television showed footage on Wednesday night of smoke billowing from mountainous areas as tanks and anti-aircraft guns shelled Houthi militants. Government soldiers were also seen storming Houthi outposts. Heavy fighting also broke out in Jawf, Marib’s Serwah and other locations in northern Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday.

In Marib, Yemen’s minister of interior on Wednesday said that a cell linked to the Houthis that gathered information about military movements in the city had been dismantled.

Two Houthi groups are believed to have been responsible for sending the location of the military training site in Marib that was shelled by Houthis on Saturday.

Thousands of government troops and Saudi-led military training officers have been based in Marib since 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition intervened in support of the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

A mother and child were killed on Wednesday when a Houthi missile ripped through their house in the city. Coalition air defenses in Marib have intercepted dozens of Houthi missiles aimed at military bases and residential areas in the past the past four years.