Iraq, widening the war zone in its conflict with Iran, attacked an Iranian oil terminal near the mouth of the Persian Gulf Tuesday, setting two supertankers ablaze, shipping insurer Lloyd's of London said.
A military spokesman in Baghdad said Iraqi planes fired missiles at the floating terminal at Sirri Island, which had been thought to be beyond the range of Iraqi jets.
Iraq is now able to refuel its French-made Mirage jets in flight, Jane's Defense Weekly, published in London, reported.
The increased range of Iraq's jets facilitated the attack, the first ever by the Iraqis in the southern section of the Gulf, and analysts believe it shook Iran's sense of security about having a safe terminal from which to export oil.
Iran began shuttling oil in chartered tankers from its main terminal at Kharg Island to Sirri after Iraq increased attacks on Kharg a year ago in an effort to cripple Iran's oil exports, which finance the 6-year-old war against Iraq.
'Iraq has the destructive power and the means to transform any area in Iran into an area of destruction,' the state-run Iraqi News Agency quoted a military spokesman in Baghdad as saying.
The planes hit the 122,000-ton Iranian tanker Azarpad and the 176,000-ton Cyprus-registered tanker Klelia at about 11 a.m., Lloyd's said. Iran used both supertankers as floating reservoirs.
The Azerpad was badly damaged, and continued to burn several hours after the attack.
Flames on the Klelia appeared under control later in the day. At least three sailors were missing.
An unexploded missile was believed to have lodged inside the hull of a Liberian-registered ship, the Venture, and six other ships moved in a convoy to Dubai after the attack, Lloyd's said.
Earlier, Iran fired a missile at the Al Dowra oil refinery, about 10 miles south of Baghdad, Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said.
The missile did not hit the target, but the attack was considered a 'dangerous escalation' of the Gulf war, the Iraqi military spokesman said.
Since May, at least 275 civilians have died in both countries after Iraq began a series of bombing raids on Iranian industrial targets, and Iran retaliated.