MANAMA, Bahrain — An Iranian gunboat fired a missile at a Japanese-owned vessel in the Persian Gulf off Saudi Arabia today, setting it ablaze and injuring three crewmen, marine salvage experts reported.
The raid on the Panamanian-registered Tomoe-8 occurred a day after Japanese shipowners lifted a ban on their ships sailing in the gulf. The ban was imposed a week ago, after Iranian attacks on two Japanese tankers. More than half of Japan's oil imports come from the gulf.
The salvage firm said the missile slammed into the engine room of the 9,400-ton Tomoe-8 at 9:25 a.m., when the vessel was about 60 miles east of the Saudi port of Jubail.
Three members of the 23-person Burmese crew suffered slight injuries and the rest were battling the blaze, they said.
The Iranian gunboat intercepted the Tomoe-8 and questioned its captain about the vessel's cargo and destination before attacking it, the salvage agents said. The ship was to pick up oil from Jubail, they said.