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Escorted Kuwaiti Convoy Safely Ends Gulf Voyage

September 01, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A U.S.-escorted convoy of Kuwaiti oil tankers safely completed its journey through the Persian Gulf today as the Pentagon disclosed that an American warship had rescued an Iraqi pilot adrift in the gulf for two days.

The pilot, whose identity was not given, was picked up from a raft Monday by the amphibious helicopter carrier Guadalcanal, a Pentagon statement said. He was turned over today to the International Red Crescent Society--the Islamic counterpart to the International Red Cross--in Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon said the latest Navy-guarded convoy in the troubled waterway came to a successful conclusion today when the tankers Chesapeake City and Surf City left their escorts and sailed into Kuwaiti waters.

From Gulf of Oman

The two vessels--at times escorted by as many as six U.S. warships--began their journey on Saturday from a location deep in the Gulf of Oman outside the Persian Gulf. It was the fourth north-bound convoy and the sixth overall since the escort missions began July 20.

Word of the successful gulf transit came as Iraq said today that its warplanes attacked four ships in the gulf and rockets fired by an Iranian speedboat started a fire on a Spanish supertanker.

The Iraqi News Agency said Iraqi warplanes attacked vessels in the gulf in four separate raids today between midnight and 4 p.m. The report did not identify the vessels, calling each one a "large naval target," a phrase the Iraqis generally use to refer to oil tankers.

Vessel on Fire

Salvage executives reported an Iranian tanker afire in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow southern entrance to the Persian Gulf.

Radio monitors said the 300,078-ton Spanish supertanker Munguia sent a distress signal when attacked by one or two Iranian speedboats 55 miles northeast of Bahrain, an island emirate in the central gulf. Later reports said at least two shoulder-fired rockets hit the ship, causing no casualties ut starting a fire in the engine room.

Crewmen put out the fire and the tanker continued down the gulf, according to the radio reports and Spanish officials.

According to the Pentagon statement, the Iraqi pilot who was rescued by the Guadalcanal had participated in Iraqi raids on Iranian targets Saturday.

Although suffering from sunburn and dehydration, the pilot's medical condition was good, the Pentagon statement said.

Pentagon sources who asked not to be identified said the pilot had been flying an F-1 Mirage jet fighter and had been spotted drifting south of the Iranian-controlled island of Farsi, where the Guadalcanal was operating in support of a tanker convoy.

The Pentagon said the pilot was sent to Saudi Arabia rather than to Iraq because under the Geneva Convention, the United States is a neutral party in the Iran-Iraq war and cannot return downed airmen from either country to their home.

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