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27 Nov, 2023 12:22

Israel-linked tanker briefly seized off Yemen’s coast

The attackers tried to flee, but were stopped by an American warship, the US Central Command claims
Israel-linked tanker briefly seized off Yemen’s coast

Armed assailants seized an Israel-linked tanker of the coast of Yemen, but surrendered when warships from the US-led counter-piracy force answered a distress call, according to the US Central Command (Centcom).

A group of gunmen boarded the Liberian-flagged Central Park vessel on Sunday, Centcom said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter). Shortly afterwards, the USS Mason destroyer and other coalition vessels arrived at the scene and told the assailants to release the ship, the statement read.

“Subsequently, five armed individuals debarked the ship and attempted to flee via their small boat. The Mason pursued the attackers resulting in their eventual surrender,” Centcom said.

During the pursuit, “two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen toward the general location” of the USS Mason and the Central Park, it added. The missiles landed some 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) from the ships, causing no damage or injuries, according to the statement.

Sources told Fox News that the USS Mason fired warning shots as it chased the assailants, while a US helicopter gunship was flying overhead. A Japanese destroyer apparently assisted the American vessel during the pursuit.

Centcom did not give details on the attackers, describing them as an “unknown entity.” The crew on board the Central Park is “currently safe,” it added.

Zodiac Maritime, a London-based international shipping firm owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer's Zodiac Group, said it would “like to thank the coalition forces who responded quickly, protecting assets in the area and upholding international maritime law.”

According to the company, the tanker carries phosphoric acid is manned by 22-strong crew from Bulgaria, Georgia, India, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam.

Yemen’s exiled government has blamed the Houthi rebels, who control most of the country’s north, including capital Sanaa, for storming the Central Park ship. The incident was one the most latest “acts of maritime piracy carried out by the terrorist Houthi militias with the support of the Iranian regime,” it said in a statement.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. The Associated Press pointed out in its report that the incident happened in a part of the Gulf of Aden that “is fairly distant from Houthi-controlled territory.”

Last month, the Houthis warned that they would target Israeli vessels along busy shipping routes in the Red Sea in response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. They have also fired several drones and missiles into Israeli territory.

A week ago, the Houthis confirmed the capture of the Israel-linked cargo ship Galaxy Leader. The vessel been taken to the Yemeni port of Hodeida, where it currently remains.

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