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7 Mar, 2024 13:25

First fatalities confirmed in Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping

A “reckless” strike by the Yemeni group has “taken the lives of international seafarers,” US Central Command said
First fatalities confirmed in Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping

Three people were killed and several others severely wounded in a Houthi missile attack on a ship in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, the US Central Command has said. According to Reuters, they are the first confirmed fatalities in strikes on commercial vessels by the Yemeni armed group.

The Houthis have been targeting merchant ships allegedly linked to Israel in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden with drones and missiles since mid-October last year, saying they are acting in support of the Palestinians amid Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

Missile strikes on targets inside Yemen by the US and UK, which began in December, have so far failed to curb the militant attacks. Russia has criticized Washington and London over the bombings, accusing them of violating international law and “escalating the situation in the region for their own destructive purposes.”

An anti-ship ballistic missile was launched from “Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen” at True Confidence, a Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden, the US Central Command said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday. Reuters described the ship as Greek-owned.

“The multinational crew reports three fatalities, at least four injuries, of which three are in critical condition, and significant damage to the ship,” CENTCOM said. The crew abandoned the vessel after the strike, it added.

According to the US military, it was the fifth missile fired by Yemeni fighters at ships off the country’s coast in the space of two days. “These reckless attacks by the Houthis have disrupted global trade and taken the lives of international seafarers,” it stressed.

The Indian navy later published footage of its sailors using helicopters to rescue the crew of True Confidence from inflatable rafts. The video also featured the damaged freighter, with plumes of thick black smoke rising from it.

The Houthis claimed responsibility on Wednesday, saying that the True Confidence was hit “after the ship’s crew ignored the Yemeni naval forces’ warning messages.” The group’s spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, stressed that “the strike was precise… leading to a fire outbreak on board.”

The Greek operators of True Confidence said that there were 20 crew and three armed guards on board, including 15 Filipinos, four Vietnamese, two Sri Lankans, one Indian and one Nepali national. The ship is currently on fire and drifting, they added.

Later on Thursday, CENTCOM issued another statement, saying the US forces had conducted “self-defense strikes” against two Houthi drones that “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships.”

Russian Charge d'Affaires in Yemen Yevgeny Kudrov earlier said the US and UK airstrikes would “unlikely make the Houthis change their stance,” but will only increase public support for the group. He argued that as the humanitarian situation in Yemen is “one of the harshest in the world,” world powers should boost humanitarian aid to the nation, rather than bombing its infrastructure.

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