‘At least two dead’ and ship abandoned after Houthi attack in Gulf of Aden

‘At least two dead’ and ship abandoned after Houthi attack in Gulf of Aden

At least two sailors are said to died in a missile attack carried out by Yemen’s Houthis on a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden that forced the crew to abandon the vessel.

The UK embassy in Yemen’s Sanaa said two sailors had died in the attack, the first fatal strike in a campaign by the group over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The extent of the damage to the Barbados-flagged bulk carrier True Confidence remained unclear but the crew left the ship after deploying lifeboats – signalling a serious incident, a US defence official said. Two other US officials acknowledged the attack caused “fatalities” without elaborating. A US warship and the Indian navy are on the scene trying to assist in rescue efforts.

Brigadier General Yahya Saree, a Houthi military spokesman, claimed the attack in a pre-recorded message, saying its missile fire set the vessel ablaze. He said the rebels’ attacks would only stop when the “siege on the Palestinian people in Gaza is lifted”.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Those vessels have included at least one with cargo bound for Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory.

Despite more than a month and a half of US-led airstrikes, Houthi rebels have remained capable of launching significant attacks.

They include the attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertiliser, the Rubymar, which sank on Saturday after drifting for several days, and the downing of an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars. It was unclear why the Houthis targeted the True Confidence.

Meanwhile, a separate Houthi assault on Tuesday apparently targeted the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that has been involved in the American campaign against the rebels. The Houthi attack on the Carney involved bomb-carrying drones and one anti-ship ballistic missile, the US military’s Central Command said. The US later launched an air strike destroying three anti-ship missiles and three bomb-carrying drone boats, the Central Command said.

The Houthis have not offered any assessment of the damage they have suffered in the American-led strikes that began in January, though they have said at least 22 of their fighters have been killed.

Meanwhile, the Indian navy released a video of its sailors from the INS Kolkata fighting a fire aboard the MSC Sky II, which had been targeted by the Houthis in the Gulf of Aden on Monday. Smoke poured out of one container aboard the vessel, which also showed scorch marks from the impact of a Houthi missile.

A firefighting team from Indian Navy vessel INS Kolkata responding to a fire on Liberian-flagged Merchant ship MSC Sky II


The Mediterranean Shipping Co, a Switzerland-based company, said the missile struck the ship as it was traveling from Singapore to Djibouti. “The missile caused a small fire that has been extinguished while no crew were injured,” the company said.

Iran separately announced the seizure of crude oil aboard the Advantage Sweet through an announcement carried by the judiciary’s state-run Mizan news agency. At the time, Iranian commandos rappelled from a helicopter on to the vessel, which it alleged collided with another ship, without offering any evidence.

The court order for the seizure offered an entirely different reason for the confiscation. Mizan said it was part of a court order over US sanctions it alleged barred the importation of a Swedish medicine used to treat patients suffering from epidermolysis bullosa, a rare genetic condition that causes blisters all over the body and eyes.

The Advantage Sweet had been in the Persian Gulf in late April, but its track showed no unusual behaviour as it transited through the Strait of Hormuz, where a fifth of all traded oil passes. Iran has made allegations in other seizures that later fell apart as it became clear Tehran was trying to leverage the capture as a chip to negotiate with foreign nations.

Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, said on Wednesday that the Advantage Sweet had been “seized under false pretences” and that the company “has not had any direct communication with Iran over the seizure of the vessel”.

“Chevron has not been permitted access to the vessel and considers the cargo a total loss due to Iran’s illegal actions,” Chevron said in a statement. “We now consider the cargo the responsibility of the Iranian government.”

Associated Press

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