Iranians Attack Tanker, Iraq Raids Petrochemical Plant
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Iranian commandos shot up a U.S.-managed tanker from a speedboat Friday, and Iraq said its warplanes bombed a petrochemical plant the Japanese are building on Iran’s Persian Gulf coast.
The 103,584-ton Grand Wisdom anchored off Dubai in the southern gulf with five rocket-grenade holes in its hull from the first attack on neutral shipping in nearly two weeks. The tanker is registered in Panama.
No casualties were reported in the pre-dawn assault and the crew quickly extinguished a small fire, marine salvage executives said.
They said the raid was the first by an Iranian speedboat since Oct. 24 and appeared to be retaliation for an Iraqi air raid on an Iranian tanker Wednesday. The gulf neighbors have been at war since September 1980.
The attack took place about 25 miles from where the U.S. Navy frigate Carr fired on a United Arab Emirates fishing boat Sunday, killing an Indian seaman. The Carr’s officers apparently believed the boat was an Iranian craft preparing to attack a refueling tanker the Carr was escorting.
Shipping sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said no American warships were in the area when the Grand Wisdom was hit.
Teekay Shipping Co. of Long Beach, Calif., manages the tanker. Capt. Vinay Pat Wardhan, vice president for ship management, said the rocket-propelled grenades hit the stern above the waterline and some stores were burned, but no oil spilled or caught fire.
U.S. warships escort only U.S.-flagged ships, which include 11 Kuwaiti tankers that have been registered in the United States so the Navy can protect them.
Iran accuses Kuwait of aiding Iraq, its neighbor at the nead of the gulf, and last year began attacking ships owned by or serving the sheikdom. Iran fired three missiles into Kuwait’s oil terminal-anchorage complex last month, hitting two tankers and a major loading dock.
American officials say the ″rules of engagement″ allow U.S. warships to offer humanitarian aid to other ships that request it, but not to intervene in an attack on a vessel that does not fly the Stars and Stripes.
In Washington, the Pentagon said the 16th convoy of reflagged Kuwaiti tankers and Navy warships began moving down the gulf Friday, with the frigate Thach escorting the supertanker Middletown.
It said the ships ″passed Iran’s Farsi Island without incident this morning.″ The reflagged supertanker Bridgeton struck a mine near the island, about 140 miles from Kuwait, on the first convoy in July.
A war communique from Baghdad said Iraqi jets scored ″violent and destructive strikes″ on the Bandar Khomeini petrochemical complex. The plant is on Iran’s coast in the northern gulf, about 50 miles from the border.
The joint venture of Japan’s Mitsui corporation and the Iranian government has been under construction intermittently for 14 years and the target of many bombing raids.
All planes returned safely, the communique said, leaving behind ″explosions, tongues of fire and clouds of black smoke.″
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency claimed the Iraqi planes bombed ″non-military targets,″ killing one civilian and wounding 13.
It said an Iraqi plane was shot down Thursday night and crashed in Saudi Arabian waters. Iraq had reported a raid on an Iranian tanker at about that time, but said nothing of lost aircraft.
That was the ninth attack on a tanker Iraq reported in 12 days, but only one has been confirmed independently.
Witnesses said the Rostam oil platform in the south-central gulf, which U.S. warships shelled Oct. 19, still was burning Friday after a flareup several days ago.
The platform and another nearby were shelled because an Iranian missile fired into the Kuwait anchorage hit one of the U.S.-flagged tankers three days earlier. Rostam is about 100 miles northeast of where the Grand Wisdom was attacked Friday.
Associated Press reporter Thierry Boinet, sailing past Rostam on the French destroyer Dupleix, reported seeing flames about 150 feet high. The Dupleix is part of a French task force operating in the gulf region.