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Ship on fire in Gulf of Aden after missile attack 

February 22, 2024
The Greek-flagged cargo ship Sea Champion was able to deliver grain to Yemen despite a Houthi missile strike on Monday
The Greek-flagged cargo ship Sea Champion was able to deliver grain to Yemen despite a Houthi missile strike on Monday

LONDON — Two missiles have hit a ship off Yemen and caused a fire on board, authorities say, in another apparent attack by Yemen's rebel Houthi movement.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency said the unnamed vessel was in the Gulf of Aden when it was attacked and that US-led coalition forces had responded.

A maritime security firm identified it as a Palau-flagged cargo ship.

There was no claim from the Houthis, but they have been targeted merchant vessels in the region since November.

The Houthis, who are backed by Iran and control much of north-western Yemen, say their attacks are a show of support for the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They have claimed - often falsely - that the targeted ships are linked to Israel, the US or the UK.

Maritime security firm Ambrey said the ship attacked about 70 nautical miles (130km) south-east of the Yemeni city of Aden on Thursday morning was British-owned, but the registered owner told BBC Verify that it was not involved with the vessel.

The ship's AIS transponder gave its destination as "Syrian crew on board", but it appeared to be heading in the direction of the Red Sea from Thailand.

In another development on Thursday, the Israeli military said its air defence system had successfully intercepted a "launch which was identified in the area of the Red Sea and was en route to Israel".

Earlier, the US military said its forces had carried out four "self-defence" strikes against seven mobile cruise missiles and one mobile ballistic missile launcher in Houthi-controlled areas that were prepared to launch towards the Red Sea on Wednesday. They also shot down a one-way attack unmanned aircraft system (UAS), or drone, it added.

On Monday, the crew of a Belize-flagged, British-registered cargo vessel Rubymar had to abandon ship in the Bab al-Mandab Strait - which connects the Gulf of Aden with the Red Sea - after it was hit by a Houthi missile and started letting in water.

Images of the ship from Wednesday, which were obtained by the BBC, showed the ship was down by the stern but had not sunk, as the Houthis initially claimed. It is carrying a 22 tonnes of fertiliser classified as "very dangerous".

The Houthis also said they had attacked two US-owned cargo ships in the Gulf of Aden on Monday. The US military confirmed that two missiles were fired at one of them, the Greek-flagged Sea Champion, which was able to continue its journey to Aden to deliver grain.

The US state department condemned the attacks as "reckless and indiscriminate", warning that they had delayed deliveries of critical humanitarian aid to Yemen, Sudan and Ethiopia.

It also said the US and its allies would continue to take "appropriate action" to protect freedom of navigation and commercial shipping in the critical waterway, which accounts for about 12% of global seaborne trade.

US and British warships have been deployed in the region as part of an international maritime task force.

US forces, occasionally backed by British warplanes, have also been striking Houthi military targets in Yemen in response to the attacks since mid-January, but so far the Yemeni rebels have not been deterred. — BBC


February 22, 2024
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