KUWAIT — Iran blasted Kuwait's main oil terminal with a Silkworm missile today, and pro-Iranian kidnapers in Lebanon warned of suicide attacks on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the bombing of U.S. and French bases in Beirut.
Both the missile strike and the warning appeared to be in reprisal for U.S. attacks on two Iranian oil rigs on Monday.
The Sea Island terminal, which handles nearly one-third of Kuwait's crude oil exports, was badly damaged and three workers were wounded when the Chinese-designed missile roared into the offshore facility today, shipping sources said.
Flames and a dark plume of smoke were visible from the shore 10 miles away shortly after the attack. One shipping source said of the attack: "They got it right smack in the middle."
Damage Being Assessed
Kuwaiti oil officials said the extent of damage was still being assessed and denied rumors that Kuwait's export industry had been crippled. But industry sources said as much as a third of its oil exports could be threatened.
The target was just two miles from the sites of missile strikes that damaged two tankers--including the U.S.-flagged Sea Isle City--last Friday, touching off the latest round of retaliation between the United States and Iran.
Kuwaiti and U.S. officials blamed both Monday's and Friday's attacks on Iranian forces engaged nearby in a 7-year-old war with Iraq, and Kuwait leveled the same charge today in a formal diplomatic protest to Tehran.
Iran vowed revenge for the U.S. attack on its oil platforms. The retaliation came today but targeted Kuwait rather than the Americans directly. Diplomats in the region said this would make it difficult for Washington to retaliate--and some expressed the hope it would not.
"If the Americans are sensible, they will see the score as even now and won't do anything," said one diplomat. "This lets the Iranians out of a corner. It wasn't an American ship, it wasn't an American anything."
In Beirut, the pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad threatened to launch attacks against U.S. and Western European targets and said Muslims in the gulf were preparing for suicide missions.
"The coming days will reveal to the world America's paper-thin ability to confront Muslims. . . . The conditions of the Europeans will not be any better," a statement signed by the group and delivered to Western news agencies said.
It was accompanied by photographs of two of the hostages the group holds, Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson and Frenchman Jean-Paul Kauffmann.
The statement was also accompanied by two color photographs of U.S. and French bases in Beirut before they were attacked by suicide bombers in West Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983.
It warned of more suicide attacks in other Muslim states.