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Iran reports attack on its cargo vessel in Mediterranean Sea

March 12, 2021 GMT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian cargo vessel was targeted this week in a “terrorist attack” in the Mediterranean Sea, the country’s state TV reported on Friday. There were no casualties in the explosion, the report said.

The report quoted Ali Ghiasian, spokesman for the state shipping line, as saying that Wednesday’s attack damaged Shahr-e Kord, a commercial vessel traveling to Europe. Ghiasian said an “explosives device” damaged the hull of the ship and set off a small fire that was quickly extinguished.

Ghiasian said such acts of terrorism and instances of piracy are contrary to international regulations. He said “legal prosecution of the perpetrators of this terrorist action will be pursued through competent international organizations.”

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The report said the ship would continue on its path following a damage assessment, without providing more details. It did not blame anyone for the attack.

Earlier this week, Israel accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guard of attaching an explosive device to the Israeli-owned cargo vessel Helios Ray in international waters near the Gulf of Oman in February. The vessel was en route from Saudi Arabia to Singapore. Israel said the explosion caused “severe damage, forcing the ship to return to the port of Dubai to ensure the safety of the crew.”

Iran, which does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli militant groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas, rejected the claim as an unfounded allegation.

Also Friday, Iranian Gen. Esmail Ghaani, chief of the Quds Force, thye foreign wing of the Revolutionary Guard, warned that Tehran “will destroy the wall,” referring to Israel’s West Bank separation barrier. Iranian officials are known for calling for the destruction of Israel if it attacks Iran.

Israel accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. Earlier this week, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the American cable network Fox News that his country is upgrading contingency plans to strike Iranian targets if Tehran shows signs of a nuclear escalation.

Iran denies it is pursuing nuclear weapons, and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Unlike Iran, Israel’s atomic program, which is widely believed to include an undeclared nuclear bomb program, is not monitored by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.