Iran ship targeted in 'terrorist' attack

The cargo ship, named Iran Shahr e Kord and owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines group (IRISL), was en route from Iran to Europe when its hull was hit with "an explosive device" on Wednesday, the group's spokesman Ali Ghiasian said.

"A small fire started where the explosion had occurred, but it was quickly extinguished ... and none of the crew were hurt," he said, according to AFP.

“Such terrorist acts amount to naval piracy, and are contrary to international law on commercial shipping security.”

"Legal proceedings will start to identify the perpetrators through related international bodies," he added.

The company official did not disclose the ship's current location and cargo, but said "it will continue its route after assessing and repairing the damage".

The vessel was headed to Europe when the attack occurred and will leave for its destination after repairs, Ghiasian added.

The Iranian-flagged vessel last reported its position off Syria’s coast on March 10 as it headed for the Syrian port of Latakia, Refinitiv ship tracking data showed, Reuters wrote.

Two maritime security sources said initial indications were that the Iranian container ship had been intentionally targeted by an unknown source.

The vessel was detained in Libya in 2019 although the ship was later released.

IRISL was blacklisted by the US in mid-2020 over what the Department of State described as the transportation of items related to Iran's missile and nuclear program.

Former US president Donald Trump withdrew Washington from a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and world powers in 2018 and reimposed draconian sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The incident comes less than two weeks after Tel Aviv had accused Tehran of being behind an attack on an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman, charges strongly denied by Iran.

In a Thursday report quoting US and Middle East officials, the Wall Street Journal said that Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil since late 2019.

It said Israel has used weapons including "water mines" to target the vessels.

Israel separately said it is waging a covert “campaign between wars” to deny Iranian allies arms and other support from Tehran.

“We do not comment on the campaign we are waging, in the operational regard,” Israeli security cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said when asked about the Journal report.

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