Yemen’s Houthis claim attack on oil tanker ‘on fire’ in Gulf of Aden

A vessel is on fire having been attacked off the coast of Yemen in a missile strike claimed by the Houthis as the Islamist group’s threats in the key shipping route continue despite UK and US strikes.

Multinational firm Trafigura, which has offices in London, told The Independent an oil tanker operated on its behalf, the Marlin Luanda, was struck by a missile in the Red Sea on Friday, with firefighting equipment currently in use to battle the flames and military ships on their way to assist.

Yemen’s Houthis claimed their naval forces carried out an operation in the Gulf of Aden targeting a vessel, which it described as a British oil tanker. They used “a number of appropriate naval missiles, the strike was direct,” the Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement.

Houthi fighters and tribesmen stage a rally against the US and the UK strikes on Houthi-run military sites near Sanaa, Yemen, in January

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The targeted vessel was originally reported to be British. Shipping data suggests it sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported an incident 60 nautical miles south east of Aden, saying authorities have been informed and are responding.

British maritime security firm Ambrey said the crew have been reported safe.

In a statement, Trafigura said: “Firefighting equipment on board is being deployed to suppress and control the fire caused in one cargo tank on the starboard side. The safety of the crew is our foremost priority. We remain in contact with the vessel and are monitoring the situation carefully. Military ships in the region are underway to provide assistance.”

A Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 takes off to carry out air strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen, from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, on Monday

(UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024)

It comes after an earlier incident in which two missiles were reported to have exploded in the water and “vessel and crew are safe and no damage reported”.

UKMTO, which acts as a link between the Royal Navy and commercial shipping, warned other vessels to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity.

The Houthis have repeatedly launched attacks on ships in the Red Sea since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, endangering shipping on a key route for global trade.

The Houthi campaign has been very disruptive to international shipping, causing some companies to suspend transits through the Red Sea and instead take the much longer, costlier journey around Africa.

US and British warplanes, ships and submarines have launched dozens of air strikes across Yemen against Houthi forces in retaliation.

The UK and US are also targeting key figures in the Iran-backed militant group with sanctions.

A second series of UK and US air strikes, carried out at the start of the week, appears to have done little to deter Houthi action.

A motorcyclist drives past a large screen showing the top leader of the Houthis, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, in Sana’a, Yemen


Earlier on Friday, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: “We continue to call on [the Houthis] to step back from such action. We’re clear that this is illegal and unacceptable.”

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron is currently finishing a trip to the Middle East, in a diplomatic bid to reduce tensions as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues.

The Independent has approached the UK Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence for comment.

More follows on this breaking news story…

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