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Iraqi Missile Hits Tugboat in Night Raid; Escalation of War Feared

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From Times Wire Services

A Dutch salvage tugboat in the Persian Gulf was hit in a night attack by a French-made Exocet missile fired from an Iraqi warplane, shipping executives said Tuesday.

The attack on the 347-ton tugboat Ribut, chartered to the Dutch firm Wijsmuller, was reported to be far outside the so-called war zone in the northeastern sector of the Persian Gulf. The attack occurred 35 miles farther south than any previously confirmed strike by Iraq, shipping sources said. They said it could signal an escalation of the Persian Gulf War.

Iraq said its warplanes attacked three ships in the gulf Monday, but the attack on the Ribut was the only one confirmed by shipping sources.

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A statement from the Wijsmuller firm said the Ribut was struck by an Exocet at 1:01 a.m. while at anchor near the Saudi Arabian oil terminal of Ras Tannurah.

Previous attacks in this zone of the gulf have been attributed to Iraq’s enemy, Iran, which has carried out attacks only during the daytime.

Iraq’s official media said the stepped-up campaign against gulf shipping this year, together with new night raids, mark a fresh stage in the war with Iran, now in its fifth year.

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