Iraq declared Iranian airspace a 'prohibited zone' and warned it would shoot down commercial airliners in the area Sunday as its warplanes flew air and missile attacks on at least six Iranian cities in the 4 -year-old Persian Gulf war.
In the gulf, a loaded Liberian-registered oil tanker was set ablaze by a missile, wounding four crewmen, in the 128th attack on a neutral vessel in 13 months.
Expanding the war into a new area involving civilians, the Iraqi News Agency issued a military communique warning commercial airliners to avoid Iranian airspace from noon EST Tuesday.
Proclaiming a 'prohibited zone over Iran,' Baghdad said it might shoot down planes in the area and would not take responsibility for any that were attacked.
'Any air target that flies in Iranian airspace will be exposed to direct danger because of difficulty in distinguishing real targets from airlines and the dog fights that might happen anytime,' the news agency said.
British Airways in London canceled all its flights to Tehran and Baghdad 'indefinitely' on the advice of the British government.
In the Persian Gulf, shipping insurers Lloyds of London said the Liberian-registered tanker 'Caribbean Breeze' was attacked and set ablaze Sunday in the Persian Gulf about 50 miles east of the gulf state of Qatar.
Shipping sources in Kuwait said the 109,752-ton tanker, loaded with 240,000 tons of Kuwaiti oil, was attacked by a single unidentified aircraft, injuring four crewmen, including the captain.
The fire was extinguished and the tanker towed to the port of Dubai, the sources said.
Last year, Iraq extended the war into the gulf by declaring a 'no-go' zone around Iran's main oil export terminal at Kharg Island, starting the so-called 'tanker war.'
The Caribbean Breeze was the sixth confirmed shipping casualty this year and the 128th neutral vessel ship hit since February 1984.
Neither Iraq nor Iran claimed responsibility for the latest attack. In the past, Iraq has claimed credit for its attack, including many never confirmed. Iran never publicly announces its ship attacks.
On the battlefield, Iran said it crushed an Iraqi counter-attack in the Howeiza marshlands and had taken control of the entire marsh south of the Iraqi town of Amarah. It did not, however, specify its territorial gains.
In Baghdad, an Iraqi military statement said Iraqi forces 'continued advancing on Iranian front lines and crushing their positions,' following a massive Iranian offensive in the area that started last Monday.
Iraq also said its warplanes carried out 'intensive' air and missile raids on seven Iranian towns and cities, including the Iranian capital of Tehran.
Iran confirmed six but said anti-aircraft fire stopped Iraqi planes from dropping their bombs on Tehran.
Iran's state-run news agency IRNA said at least five people were killed and 15 others wounded in Iraqi air raids on Kermanshah and reported at least 13 killed and 80 wounded in the attack on Dezful.
Both nations have in the past exaggerated their war claims.
In London, the Sunday Times reported that the United States, officially neutral in the war, has been passing intelligence information to Iraq warning of approaching Iranian air attacks.
The newspaper said the information was gathered by 'U.S. satellites orbiting over the gulf and from U.S. reconnaissance planes, on loan to Saudi Arabia.'
In Washington, the Pentagon refused to comment. But a government source said, it would be 'very, very difficult' to pass such information and it would 'be impossible to so by satellite.'