Saudi Tanker Attacked By Iranian Commandos
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Iranian commandos in speedboats attacked a Saudi Arabian tanker today as it headed out of the Persian Gulf, maritime shipping executives said.
The attack came one day after Iraq said it raided a ship and threatened to answer the latest Iranian missile attacks on the Iraqi capital by blitzing Iranian cities with air raids, artillery and long-range missiles.
The Japanese government, meanwhile, decided today to provide $10 million to install a navigation system to help protect shipping in the Persian Gulf. In Washington, the U.S. Congress passed legislation banning Iranian imports.
Shipping executives, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 21,032- ton Raad Al-Bakry VIII was hit at about 5 a.m. as it headed toward the Strait of Hormuz, some 20 miles off the coast of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates.
At about the same time, Sharjah residents reported hearing loud explosions and seeing flashes of light. Initial reports indicated a small container ship had been attacked, but the owners of the Saudi vessel said their ship was the target.
Only minor damage to the ship was reported. A source at the office of the ship’s owner in Jiddah said there were no casualties among the ship’s 15 crew members, mostly Filipinos with a Norwegian captain and Egyptian officers.
Another compnay official, reached by telephone, confirmed the attack and said the ship would resume radio communications after clearing the Strait of Hormuz.
The Saudi vessel is listed by Lloyd’s Register of Ships as a oil chemical tanker. But the ship’s owner said it was carrying fuel oil and was bound for Jiddah.
The shipping sources said Iran was possibly initiating retaliatory raids for the five tankers that Iraq’s air force attacked Monday at Iran’s Larak island oil terminal.
A communique carried by the official Iraqi News Agency said Iraqi jet fighters raided a ″big naval target″ Tuesday night. The term generally describes a large tanker or cargo vessel.
Gulf shipping sources said they could not confirm an Iraqi attack.
About 380 commercial vessels have been attacked by Iran and Iraq since their war began in September 1980.
A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said today his government would provide funds to set up ″high-accuracy radio aids″ in gulf nations. The equipment would be used to transmit information on mine-sweeping operations and other data vital to ships plying the gulf, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The plan was approved today at a joint session of senior Japanese government officials and members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party in Tokyo. It follows talks last month between Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and President Reagan on possible Japanese contributions to U.S. efforts to defend navigation in the gulf.
Japan has come under criticism from some U.S. legislators for not assisting U.S. activities in the gulf, through which 55 percent of Japan’s oil imports passes.
The post-World War II Japanese Constitution bars the government from playing any military role in international conflicts.
The Reagan administration agreed last summer to reflag and provide Navy escorts for 11 Kuwaiti tankers. Iran began targeting Kuwaiti shipping a year ago, charging Kuwait aided Iraq. It also attacks other shipping in retaliation for Iraqi raids on its oil facilities and tankers.
The official Iraqi News Agency said the two Iranian missiles fired into Baghdad on Monday damaged a school and destroyed homes, shops and businesses. It gave no number of casualties.
Government newspapers in Baghdad said the Iraqi military will soon use a new type of Iraqi-manufactured missile to attack Iranian cities. They said the missile could reach the Iranian capital of Tehran.
In Washington, defense sources said the U.S. Coast Guard was sending patrol cutters, small airplanes and helicopters to assist Navy forces in the gulf. It will be the Coast Guard’s most distant deployment under Pentagon direction since the Vietnam War.
Congress approved legislation Tuesday to cut off imports from Iran. The House and Senate versions of the legislation differ slightly, so further action will be required before the bill is sent to President Reagan.
Even backers of the bill said it was largely symbolic and that they expected it to have little economic impact on Iran, since oil not bought by the United States can be easily sold elsewhere.