MANAMA, Bahrain — An Iranian missile struck and set ablaze a U.S.-flagged Kuwaiti tanker in the Persian Gulf today, wounding the ship's American captain and 15 other crewmen, U.S. officials said.
It was the second missile strike on an American-owned or American-flagged vessel in Kuwaiti waters in two days.
In Washington, the White House blamed today's attack on Iran and called it "an outrageous act of aggression." But President Reagan declined to discuss possible retaliation.
Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the White House believed that the missile was a Chinese-made Silkworm, which Iran is known to have.
"Iran has committed an outrageous act of aggression against a non-belligerent country, Kuwait, and a U.S.-flag vessel operating commercially and peacefully," Fitzwater said.
The President, questioned by reporters after a meeting with Soviet students, said, "I cannot and will not discuss what our future action might be."
Fitzwater said, "As in all such cases, we are examining the full range of diplomatic and other options available to us."
Kuwait's Cabinet met in emergency session to discuss it.
The stricken tanker, the 81,283-ton Sea Isle City, is part of the Kuwaiti fleet reflagged by the United States in July to protect it from attack. Iran claims Kuwait aids Iraq, Iran's enemy in the 7-year-old Persian Gulf war.
Captain Has Surgery
The Pentagon, in an updated statement released this afternoon, said 16 men were injured in the attack. It had reported earlier that 18 people had been wounded.
The Defense Department said that 10 of the 16 wounded were hospitalized but that none were in critical condition.
The statement identified the wounded American captain as John Hunt. It said he "underwent surgery and is now reported in good condition." His hometown was not immediately available.
Also today, a helicopter carrying a U.S. television crew came under fire from an Iranian gunboat in the southern gulf, shipping sources reported. A member of the NBC television network team said there were no injuries and there was damage to the craft.
The projectile that hit the Sea Isle City crashed into the crew accommodation quarters as the ship moved slowly toward a refueling pier near Kuwait's Al Ahmadi oil terminal. The tanker was empty at the time.