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U.S. Frigate Hits Mine in Gulf; 6 Sailors Hurt

April 14, 1988|Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain — The U.S. Navy frigate Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine near Iran's Farsi Island today while on patrol in the Persian Gulf, U.S. officials said. The Pentagon said six sailors were injured.

Sam Zakhem, U.S. ambassador to Bahrain, said there were no fatalities.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Dan Howard said the ship was in no danger of sinking. He said four of the injured sailors suffered second-degree burns and two others had slight back injuries.

The injured were evacuated to a medical facility aboard the Trenton, an amphibious transport dock ship, Zakhem said.

Near Farsi Island

The stricken frigate and the Trenton serve with the 10-unit U.S. Middle East Force that patrols the Persian Gulf. The United States has been patrolling gulf waters and escorting reflagged Kuwaiti tankers to protect them from attacks by Iran, which has been at war with Iraq since 1980. Kuwait sides with Iraq in the war.

Pentagon sources said the explosion occurred near Farsi Island, which the Iranian navy has used in its attacks on gulf shipping.

But gulf-based maritime salvage executives pointed to a location 50 miles north of the Qatar peninsula and about 100 miles south of Farsi.

At the time of the blast, the frigate was returning from international waters off Kuwait, where it had escorted the U.S.-reflagged Kuwaiti tanker Gas Queen, the executives said.

The single-tanker convoy reached Kuwait on Wednesday. Regions off Farsi and others near Qatar have been infested with mines, believed to have been laid by Iran. U.S.-led Western minesweeping operations in the two regions and elsewhere in the gulf last summer detected and detonated dozens of mines.

No Mine Sightings Reported

It was off Farsi last July that the U.S.-reflagged Kuwaiti tanker Bridgeton hit a mine in the first U.S.-protected convoy.

Howard said there had been no recent reports by minesweepers in the area that mines had been sighted.

The explosion "caused flooding in the engine room and some hull damage. The flooding is under control, and the ship is in the process of pumping out the water. It's operating under auxiliary power," Howard said.

Howard said that the Wainwright, a cruiser, was en route to the site to offer assistance.

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