Iranian speedboats attacked two tankers in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, killing one crewman and injuring another, shipping officials said. The attacks started fires that forced crewmen to abandon one vessel.
The Iranian strikes on the Danish and Singapore-registered tankers, both loaded with petroleum products, were in apparent retaliation for a string of Iraqi raids on Iranian tankers last week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The shipping officials, meanwhile, disclosed that Iraqi warplanes mistakenly bombed the Saudi island of Al Arabiyah on Friday. Iran and Iraq have been at war since 1980, and Saudi Arabia is a financial backer of Baghdad.
Both Iraq and Saudi Arabia acknowledged that an Iraqi aircraft staged a mistaken attack on Al Arabiyah, but Saudi Arabia said the attack caused no damage or casualties.
The official Saudi Press Agency said both countries consider the matter closed.
Al Arabiyah is about 20 miles south of Farsi Island, a base from which Iranian Revolutionary Guards launch speedboat attacks on commercial shipping. The Iranians have sown mines in the vicinity, where U.S. Navy warships and minesweepers last month began clearing operations.
The Danish tanker Estelle Maersk was hit with six rocket-propelled grenades in a dawn attack about 15 miles off the southern gulf port of Dubai, gulf-based shipping executives said.
The attack killed a Danish crewman identified as Erik Johnson, 37, injured Italian crewman Zani Luciano, 45, and ignited a small fire, the Danish Foreign Ministry confirmed.
The shipping executives said that a piece of shrapnel cut off Johnson’s leg, and he died after a rescue effort failed.
A helicopter sent to rescue the crewmen hit the ship and crash-landed on its deck, and Johnson died before a crew boat arrived to take him to the hospital.
No injuries were reported in the helicopter crash, but the helicopter was destroyed, the shipping officials said.
A few hours later the 85,129-ton Norman Atlantic, registered in Singapore, was set ablaze farther south near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, they said.
They said that the Norman Atlantic was carrying a load of highly flammable naphtha from Saudi Arabia and that the crew abandoned ship.
Oman’s coast guard patrol boats picked up the crew members of the Norman Atlantic and took them ashore, the officials said.
There appeared to be no one missing from the crew, which numbered 33 and was composed of Indians and Filipinos led by a Norwegian captain, they added.
The ship was still on fire hours after the attack.
The London-based Lloyd’s Shipping Intelligence Unit said the 28,010-ton Estelle Maersk had taken on its cargo from Saudi Arabia’s Jubayl loading terminal.