Iran Bombards Iraqi Targets, Baghdad Claims Civilian Deaths In Basra
KUWAIT (AP) _ Iran said its warplanes attacked military and economic centers in southern Iraq this morning. Baghdad said six civilians were killed and 23 injured in Iranian shelling of the southern port of Basra.
The Iranian bombardment followed a vow to retaliate for Iraqi bombing sorties Wednesday that Tehran claimed killed 18 civilians and injured 70.
In the Persian Gulf off neighboring Saudi Arabia, a fire at the world’s largest offshore oil operation was extinguished. Sources at the Saudi Arabian- American Oil Co. ruled out sabotage, saying a maritime accident was to blame.
A U.S. Navy warship and a reflagged Kuwaiti tanker meanwhile arrived safely in Kuwait after a 550-mile journey through the gulf. It was the 13th U.S.-escorted convoy to set sail under the Reagan administration policy of reregistering and protecting 11 Kuwaiti tankers.
Baghdad’s official news agency said Iranian shelling of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, late Wednesday and early today claimed ″six martyrs, including two women and a child.″
The agency, monitored in Cyprus, said the bombardment from border batteries 14 miles away destroyed a number of houses in the shell-pocked city.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency said Iranian jets raided military and economic installations this morning in the southern Iraqi town of Tib.
″Heavy damage was inflicted on the enemy,″ it said in a dispatch monitored in Cyprus.
Iraq said Wednesday that it had struck a petrochemical complex, a chemical plant and a refinery in southern Iraq. It also announced attacks on three tankers near Iran, but shipping executives could not confirm those claims.
Iran and Iraq have been at war for seven years.
Sources at the Arabian-American Oil Co., or Aramco, said today that the fire that broke out at its Safaniya oil field on Wednesday was extinguished later in the day.
Marine salvage executives said one drilling platform burned for hours and there might have been one casualty. Sources at Aramco said it appeared one person was killed at the oil field, which is 60 miles south of Kuwait.
They said the fire broke out when a small supply boat punctured a pipeline, adding that unusually low tides, navigational error, or both could have caused the accident.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said pollution experts had let the fire spread about two miles to allow it to consume spilled oil and minimize pollution.
Tankers were kept at a distance from the loading facilities and the sources said regular operations at Safaniya would be interrupted for a day.
There were minor injuries among some of the 9-man crew aboard the supply ship, the Tadrib Express, the sources said.
The Safaniya field accounts for 200,000 of the average 4.5 million barrels of crude oil produced each day by Saudi Arabia.
An explosion and fire on Aug. 15 at the Ju’aima liquefied petroleum plant on the southern Saudi coast was blamed by government officials on an electrical fault. But shipping sources said sabotage by Iran could not be ruled out.
That plant and the Safaniya field are both in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, which has a large Shiite Moslem population Iran has been trying to woo.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been at odds since July, when more than 400 Moslem pilgrims, many of them Iranians, were killed during an Iranian demonstration in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Most Saudis are Sunni Moslems.
Ali Khamenei, Iran’s president, renewed an Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow gulf gateway bordered by Iran and Oman.
Official Tehran radio said Wednesday that his remarks were prompted by an embargo announced by President Reagan this week on nearly all U.S. trade with Iran.
In a broadcast monitored in Cyprus, Khamenei said:
″The Strait of Hormuz is a waterway for shipping and for the Persian Gulf countries. The day we feel no ship is coming to us through that waterway we will not allow any ship to enter the Persian Gulf.
″We have been threatened by an economic blockade by the Western states. We are not afraid of such things.″
The 290,085-ton Middletown and the guided-missile frigate USS Ford arrived at Kuwait without incident Wednesday, the Pentagon said.
It said the convoy’s passage was uneventful. ″There was no unusual Iranian surface or air activity and the weather was relatively good throughout the transit,″ the Pentagon said.
The U.S. reflagging program began because of Iranian attacks on Kuwaiti vessels. Iran charges that Kuwait aids Iraq.