Of the 25 crew members aboard the container ship seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guards off the UAE coast on Saturday, 17 are Indian, sources have said.

The container ship, MCS Aries, was seized near the Strait of Hormuz by carrying out a "heliborne operation", and it is now headed towards the territorial waters of Iran, the country's state-owned IRNA news agency reported.

A source said, "We are aware that Iran has taken control of a cargo ship 'MSC Aries'. We have learnt that there are 17 Indian nationals onboard. We are in touch with the Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure security, welfare and early release of the Indian nationals."

The seizure of the vessel comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East. There are apprehensions of an attack on Israel by Iran, which has vowed retaliation for an airstrike on the consular section of its embassy in Syria's Damascus almost two weeks ago. Seven people, including, two generals were killed in the airstrike.

Iran has said that the vessel is "related to the Zionist regime (Israel) in the Gulf". Two websites that track shipping traffic, vesselfinder.com and marinetraffic.com, said MSC Aries is a Portuguese-flagged container ship and its last reported position was in the Gulf.

"A container ship named 'MCS Aries' was seized by the Sepah (Guards) Navy Special Forces by carrying out a heliborne operation," the IRNA agency reported.

The operation, it said, was carried out "near the Strait of Hormuz" - between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman - which is vital to world trade, and "this ship has now been directed towards the territorial waters" of Iran.

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