18th May, 1987 : The American frigate Stark, patrolling the Gulf north of Bahrain, was today hit by two Exocet missiles fired by Iraqi Mirage jets. The surprise attack killed 28 sailors and crippled the ship. President Reagan at once launched a vigorous protest and demanded an immediate explanation from Baghdad. Apparently the aircraft had wrongly identified the frigate as Iranian; but questions are being asked about the warship’s state of radar watch readiness. The only warning came too late, from visual sighting by a sailor. Two missiles were fired from a distance of 12 miles, which led naval experts to conclude that two aircraft were involved. Only one Exocet exploded. The other warhead remained embedded in the superstructure as the Stark, abandoned by her crew of 200, was towed to Bahrain.

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