• Iran frees Pakistanis due to FO intervention for return of citizens.
  • Development comes after Pakistani captive’s family urge govt.
  • Pakistani personnel are free to return home, sources say.

 


ISLAMABAD: The Iranian government Tuesday allowed the two Pakistanis aboard an Israeli ship to return to Pakistan, diplomatic sources told Geo News.

According to the sources, Iran permitted the release of the Pakistani captives following efforts by the Foreign Office.

They added that the Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Reza Amiri Moghadam assured the release of both Pakistanis, further sharing that the Iranian ambassador made the assurance in a meeting at the FO.

“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 with India-bound vessel?

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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