Iran Claims it Repulsed Major Iraqi Assault on Port of Faw Precede: NICOSIA
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Iraqi warplanes blasted a supertanker in the Persian Gulf, killing two sailors, and another supertanker was disabled inside an Iraqi-proclaimed war zone in the gulf waters, shipping executives said Friday.
Meanwhile, Iran said its forces repulsed an Iraqi attempt to recapture the southern Iraqi port of Faw on the northwestern cap of the gulf. Advancing Iranian troops fought with Iraqi forces in the mountainous region about 450 miles to the north.
Iranian forces Friday killed or wounded about 900 Iraqi soldiers on both fronts, and Iranian gunners shot down two Iraqi planes, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
Iraq conceded one plane was shot down in combat along the 733-mile front, and Baghdad radio said the government holds Iran responsible for the pilot’s safety.
Iraqi communiques said Iraqi warplanes Friday carried out over 430 raids, including two attacks against Iranian positions in Baneh near the Iraqi border in northwestern Iran.
The communiques broadcast on Baghdad radio said Iraqi jets attacked overnight near Iran’s coast a ″large maritime target,″ a term used to describe oil tankers.
Gulf-based marine salvage executives reported the Liberian-registered supertanker Castor was attacked overnight and was being towed to port.
Two Filipino sailors aboard the 268,728-ton vessel were killed and some of the Norwegian officers and Filipino sailors were injured, said the executives, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another Liberian-registered supertanker, 231,490-ton Energy Courage, was disabled at a point 50 miles south of Iran’s main oil terminal at Kharg Island.
The vessel, operated by the Hong Kong-based Island Navigation Corp. Ltd., was leaking oil, as salvage tugboats were called to help out, the shipping executives said in Bahrain.
″We don’t know what caused this ... The tanker is within the war zone,″ said one executive, requesting anonymity.
Early this week, Iraq broadened a war zone it had declared two years ago around Iran’s coast and Kharg terminal. The zone is 70 miles in radius around Kharg, up 20 miles from an earlier blockade imposed to destroy Iran’s economy.
On Thursday, marine executives confirmed an Iraqi claim of striking a supertanker. They identified the vessel as 343,423-ton Liberian-registered Medusa, which is operated by the London-based off-shore Oil Services Ltd..
Shipping executives could not verify claims by Iran and Iraq that four other ships had been hit by Iraqi fire Monday through Thursday.
At Faw, which Iranian troops captured from the Iraqis in the early days of Iran’s Feb. 9 offensive across the disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway, Iranian forces repulsed an Iraqi assault led in person by Iraqi Defense Minister Gen. Adnan Khairollah, IRNA said.
IRNA, which is monitored in Cyprus, said 800 Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded and three Iraqi battalions were routed in Friday’s Faw fighting.
An Iraqi communique said Iranian forces launched six attacks Thursday night at Faw, but were ″confronted with heavy fire,″ forcing their retreat after suffering ″heavy losses.″
Iran launched its second offensive Tuesday in the northern Iraqi mountains near the town of Suleymaniyah.
IRNA quoted a communique from Iran’s joint chiefs of staff Friday claiming that Iranian forces on the heights of the Poli-Langeh mountains, northeast of Suleymaniyah, have Iraqi troops within gun range.
Several Iraqi tanks and artillery guns and more than fourty vehicles have been destroyed, IRNA said.
Tehran radio, monitored in Cyprus, said 100 Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded and about 205 Iraqi prisoners were evacuated from the northern front.
However, an Iraqi communique said Iraqi forces in the northeastern area of Chwarta ″have taken the initiative and are continuing to put pressure on the enemy, inflicting massive losses in men and equipment.″
In other developments:
- Iran’s speaker of Parliament, Hashemi Rafsanjani, accused the United States of prolonging the war, according to IRNA.
It quoted him as saying in a speech at Tehran University: ″The superpowers which enjoy veto power in the U.N. Security Council seek to keep the two countries at war so as to safeguard their own interests in the region.″
The only superpower he named was the United States.
Rafsanjani criticized the United Nations for not blaming Iraq for starting the war in September 1980.
″The next step would have been to set up a court for the trial of the aggressor. Then the war would have ended,″ Rafsanjani said.
- A U.N. team traveled Friday to the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz to investigate Iranian claims that Iraq has used chemical weapons.
The director-general of the U.N. political bureau, Egbal Reza; three physicians and two military experts examined victims of chemical poisoning, IRNA said.
- In Paris, Iraqi Ambassador Mohamad al-Mashhatt denied a human rights group report that an Iraqi student opposed to the Baghdad government was executed after being expelled from France.
Amnesty International said Thursday that one of two Iraqis expelled from France on Feb. 19 was believed to have been executed after arriving in Baghdad, but the organization did not know which one was killed.
The two were among 13 people France expelled after 60 people were questioned about a series of bombings in Paris.