KUWAIT -- Iranian authorities released a Kuwaiti freighter that was seized in international waters last month because it was suspected of carrying weapons to Iraq, Iran said Saturday.
The 23,000-ton Almoharraq arrived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday after leaving the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, shipping sources said.
Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said the Al Muharraq was released Friday after Iranian military authorities removed from on board the vessel 'military cargo destined for Iraq.'
It warned that Iran's navy had orders to 'seize all ships that carry military cargo for Iraq' through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iranian navy gunboats June 20 intercepted the cargo ship 30 miles outside the Straits of Hormuz and took the vessel and its 35-man crew, including nine British officers, to Iran.
Western diplomats in Tehran said the ship's captain, David Bedford, reported the crew was being treated well and was 'getting ample supplies of vegetables and fresh water.'
In a statement released June 24, Iran said the freighter was seized because it was suspected of taking arms to Iraq, which has been fighting Iran for nearly five years.
Iranian authorities confiscated some of the ship's cargo before allowing it to sail, the shipping sources said.
Iran seized two other vessels in the Gulf area in May but released them. Observers have linked the incidents to the 'tanker war' in the Gulf, an offshoot of the 58-month-old Iran-Iraq war.
In another development, Iranian military officials said their troops killed or wounded at least 26 Iraqi troops in the central sector of the main battlefront, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. It did not say when the deaths occurred.
The IRNA dispatch said the southern oil cities of Abadan and Khorramshahr came under fire from long-range Iraqi artillery and 13 houses were damaged.
In Tehran, a spokesman for the Iranian oil ministry said Saturday a fire on a Turkish supertanker struck Friday by an Iraqi-fired Exocet missile was virtually extinguished, IRNA said.
'Over 85 percent of the fire ... has been brought under control,' said the IRNA dispatch, monitored in Beirut.
Shipping insurors Lloyd's of London said the 226,145-ton Turkish tanker M. Ceyhan was struck on the port side by an Iraqi Exocet missile. The attack occurred some 100 miles south of Kharg Island, Iran's main oil exporting terminal.
A sister ship, the supertanker M. Vatan, was struck by an Iraqi missile in virtually the same place Tuesday. Both tankers were ferrying oil from Kharg Island to the southern Gulf.
Lloyds quoted a report from the Singapore-based Selco Salvage Co. that the crippled M. Vatan was due at Iran's Sirri Island in the southern Gulf later Saturday to unload its cargo of Iranian crude.
The M. Vatan was the largest ship in terms of tonnage to be attacked yet in the Persian Gulf and Tehran warned that it will retaliate.
Both the M. Ceyhan and the M. Vatan are owned by an Istanbul-based company and sources said Turkey had complained that the latest attack was outside the Iraqi-declared 'no-go' zone.
Shipping has become a key target for Iraqi and Iranian warplanes in the war between the two Persian Gulf neighbors. Thirty-two ships have been hit this year.