Iran Gunboat Fires at Liberian Tanker : Conflicting Reports Say Ship Is Hit by Bullet or Missile

Associated Press

A Liberian-flag tanker was hit by fire from an Iranian gunboat today as it was sailing out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, a diplomatic source said.

The source, who demanded anonymity, said a bullet fired from the gunboat broke the glass in a porthole of the 20,578-ton Osco Sierra. He said there were no reported casualties and the vessel continued out of the strait into the Gulf of Oman.

However, in London, Lloyds Shipping Intelligence Unit said the Osco Sierra was "attacked by two missiles," one of which hit the ship while the other missed. The Lloyds report, which said two gunboats were involved, apparently used the term "missiles" to refer to rockets.

Another Mine Discovered

Also today, officials said a floating mine was discovered off Kuwait's coast, not far from where three re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers await the start of the next U.S. Navy-escorted convoy through the Persian Gulf.

Kuwaiti officials said naval experts "dealt with" the mine, but did not say when it was found or where it originated.

Iran is widely believed to be the source of the floating explosives that have appeared in recent weeks in the gulf and waters just outside.

Today's report was in an official statement from Kuwait's Defense Ministry. It gave the mine's location as northeast of Kubbar Island, which is 20 miles off the coast, due east of Kuwait's main oil loading terminal at Al Ahmadi.

The U.S. helicopter carrier Guadalcanal was meanwhile reported conducting more flight drills in the southern Persian Gulf.

The mine was the first reported found in coastal waters off Kuwait since the U.S.-led convoys of reflagged Kuwaiti tankers began almost a month ago.

The Reagan Administration agreed to re-flag and protect Kuwaiti vessels from Iranian attacks.

In the past year, Iran has targeted Kuwaiti vessels, charging that Kuwait aids Iraq in the 7-year-old Iran-Iraq War.

Prior to the convoys, U.S. and Kuwaiti navy experts cleared and detonated at least eight mines in the Al Ahmadi ship channel.

Mine Kills Frogman

Last week, a mine was found in the harbor at Khafji, a Saudi Arabian oil port about 50 miles south of Al Ahmadi. A Saudi navy frogman was killed while trying to explode it, Saudi officials reported.

The 401,382-ton Bridgeton, one of the first two Kuwaiti tankers to be re-registered under the U.S. flag, was holed by a mine 129 miles south of the Kuwaiti terminal on July 24 while sailing as part of the first convoy escorted by Navy warships.

There was no word on what effect the mine found today might have on U.S. Navy plans for the next convoy, which has been ready to move since Saturday.

The Navy kept a tight lid on its plans for the next convoy as the three fully loaded gas tankers and the Bridgeton idled off Al Ahmadi.

The Guadalcanal warned an American television network helicopter of "appropriate defensive measures" if it came too close.

The carrier, last seen at dusk on Monday off Bahrain, had moved south and was about 30 miles northeast of Dubai when it delivered the warning.

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