Three killed in a Houthi missile attack on a cargo ship – US Army

  • Written by Tom Spender, Joshua Cheatham, and Frank Gardner
  • BBC News

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US Central Command published a photo of the cargo ship

Three crew members were killed in a Houthi missile attack on a cargo ship off southern Yemen, US officials said, the first death caused by the group's attacks on commercial ships.

The Barbados-flagged ship True Confidence was abandoned and drifting with a fire on board after the attack.

The US military said the plane was hit in the Gulf of Aden at around 11:30 GMT.

The Houthis say their attacks aim to support the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

US Central Command (Centcom), which oversees operations in the Middle East, said three crew members were killed and at least four were injured, including three in serious condition.

She posted on social media that “these reckless attacks launched by the Houthis disrupted global trade and claimed the lives of international sailors.”

The Iranian-backed group said in a statement that the True Confidence crew ignored warnings from the Houthi naval forces.

The British Embassy in Yemen said the sailors' deaths were “the sad but inevitable consequence of the Houthis recklessly firing missiles at international ships” and insisted the attacks must stop.

American and British officials had previously announced that two people had been killed and six wounded.

The ship had a crew of 20 on board, including an Indian, four Vietnamese and 15 Filipino nationals. There were also three armed guards on board, two from Sri Lanka and one from Nepal.

A spokesman for the ship's owners and managers said in a statement that the attack occurred about 50 nautical miles (93 kilometers) southwest of the Yemeni city of Aden.

Following the attack, the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV reported on Wednesday evening that two US-led air strikes targeted the international airport in the Houthi-controlled coastal city of Hodeidah on the Red Sea.

True Trust was greeted over VHF radio by a group calling itself the “Yemeni Navy” and asked to change course, according to the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency.

Nearby ships then reported a loud bang and a large plume of smoke.

The UKMTO said True Confidence was hit and damaged, and that naval ships of the US-led international maritime coalition were supporting the ship and its crew.

The European Union's Maritime Security Center for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) also said rescue and salvage operations were underway.

The Houthis claimed in their statement that “True Confidence” is an “American ship,” but the spokesman said that the ship “does not have any current connection with any American entity.”

A US State Department spokesman said that Washington would continue to hold the Houthis accountable for their attacks and called on governments around the world to do the same.

Matthew Miller said: “The Houthis have continued to launch these reckless attacks without any regard for the safety of innocent civilians crossing the Red Sea, and now they have unfortunately and tragically killed innocent civilians.”

British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said: “We condemn the Houthis' reckless and indiscriminate attacks on global shipping and demand that they stop them.”

“We will continue to defend freedom of navigation and back our words with action,” he said on social media.

True Confidence is owned by True Confidence Shipping SA, registered at an address in Liberia, and managed by Third January Maritime Ltd in Greece, the companies said in a statement.

However, it was previously owned by US-based Oaktree Capital Management, the AP reported. Oaktree declined to comment to the AP.

A spokesman said that the bulk carrier was sailing to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia from Lianyungang in China, and was carrying a shipment of steel products and trucks.

After nearly four months of sustained drone and missile attacks by the Houthis against ships passing through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, the deadly attack, as the British Embassy stated, may have been inevitable.

The US-led naval task force in the region has shot down as many of these missiles and drones as it can, but there are simply too many of them to destroy every single one.

The Houthis seem to have an inexhaustible supply of them. This calls into question the effectiveness of the US-led airstrike campaign that targeted Houthi launch sites, ammunition depots, and command and control sites.

Now that the Houthi attacks have turned into deadly attacks, there are certainly calls to intensify revenge against them and expand the scope of targets inside Yemen. But this in turn threatens to escalate in a region already tense due to the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The Houthis say that their attacks come in support of the Palestinians. The United States, the United Kingdom, Bahrain and many other countries demanded an immediate halt to Houthi attacks on shipping.

On Tuesday, US forces shot down a ballistic missile and three drones launched from Yemen on the destroyer USS Carney, followed by three anti-ship missiles and three naval drones.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy on Monday helped extinguish a fire aboard the MSC Sky II container ship, which its operator said was hit by a missile that caused a small fire and there were no casualties.

The Belize-flagged cargo ship Rubimar sank on Sunday in the Red Sea, two weeks after it was hit by missiles fired by the Houthis. This was the first ship to sink since the Houthi attacks began in November.

The ship Rubymar was close to the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea, when it was attacked. The crew was rescued and the ship began slowly taking on water.

It was carrying a shipment of 21 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which the US military said poses an environmental hazard in the Red Sea.

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