Iranian tanker released despite U.S. appeal

Gibraltar’s government on Thursday released an Iranian supertanker detained on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions on oil exports to Syria, authorities said, a move that is likely to soothe tensions with Iran even as it drew opposition from the Trump administration.

The Grace 1 tanker was seized last month near Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, with 2.1 million barrels of oil, which the government suspected was destined for a Syrian port. Its detention was at the center of a brewing crisis between Iran and the British government, which helped Gibraltar authorities impound the ship.

At a hearing Thursday, a lawyer representing Gibraltar’s attorney general revealed that the United States had lodged a last-minute appeal to block the vessel’s release.

Authorities said the U.S. Justice Department, which declined to comment, had “applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations,” which would kick-start separate legal proceedings.

Despite the plea, Gibraltar’s Supreme Court granted the government’s request to free the vessel and its crew.

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, said he had received written assurances from Iran about the ship’s cargo and destination, but he did not elaborate.

He said the petition from the Justice Department would be assessed under what is known as mutual legal assistance, in which two or more countries agree to formally exchange information or gather evidence.

Those authorities “will make an objective, legal determination of that request,” he said. 

— Erin Cunningham

and Adam Taylor


Ethnic rebels carry out coordinated attacks

Ethnic rebels in Myanmar staged coordinated attacks Thursday in five locations, including at a military academy, where a civilian was killed and a soldier wounded.

The Northern Alliance, a coalition of armed groups from the Kokang, Rakhine and Palaung minorities, asserted responsibility for the attacks in the Mandalay region, where the Defense Services Technology Academy is located, as well as in Northern Shan state, where 14 people were reported killed.

The alliance said it launched the attacks in self-defense because the military did not stop offensive operations in areas where the minorities live.

A Defense Ministry statement acknowledged attacks in five places and said they were carried out in retaliation for government raids on illicit drug operations. It noted the death of a civilian staff member at the military academy and the wounding of a soldier. Combat in Northern Shan state is not unusual, but attacks in the Mandalay region, the country’s heartland, are virtually unprecedented.

Since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar has been wracked by fighting, with minority groups in border areas seeking greater autonomy.

— Associated Press

Novichok attack poisoned second officer, British police say: British police said a second police officer who responded to a March 2018 nerve agent attack in the English city of Salisbury was exposed to the agent, Novichok. Sergei Skripal, a Russian spy turned double agent for Britain, and his daughter spent weeks in critical condition after being exposed to Novichok. Police officer Nick Bailey also was sickened. Metropolitan Police said Thursday that another officer showed signs at the time of being exposed to a "very small amount" of Novichok and that tests had confirmed it. Britain blames Russia for the attack.

Death toll in fuel-tanker blast in Tanzania climbs to 85: The death toll in a weekend fuel-tanker explosion in eastern Tanzania has risen to 85, a regional official said. The tanker burst into flames as crowds gathered to siphon petrol from the vehicle in Morogoro, about 125 miles west of the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. Officials initially reported at least 60 deaths. The prime minister has called for an inquiry into the response of government agencies to the disaster.

One dead as typhoon pounds southwest Japan: A powerful typhoon lashed southwestern Japan, killing one person and injuring at least 34, paralyzing traffic and cutting power to thousands of homes during the Buddhist holiday week. Typhoon Krosa landed near Kure in western Hiroshima and was traveling north with winds of up to 89 mph, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The typhoon was losing strength and was expected to become a tropical storm by early Saturday, but it was still predicted to dump large amounts of rain.

— From news services