Houthi missile strike kills three civilian mariners, U.S. says

Houthi missile strike kills three civilian mariners, U.S. says


A missile launched by Houthi militants in Yemen struck a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, killing three people and marking the first known fatalities in the group’s months-long campaign of violence against maritime traffic.

The missile struck the MV True Confidence at about 11:30 a.m. in Yemen, causing significant damage to the cargo ship, American military officials said. U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the region, said that at least four other civilian mariners were injured and that the crew had abandoned ship.

The Houthis, an Iranian proxy group that receives weapons and other military support from Tehran, took responsibility for the attack, saying Wednesday’s deadly strike was carried out after the ship’s crew “rejected” unspecified warnings.

In a message posted to Telegram, the militants said the vessel targeted was American — a claim U.S. officials called false. Centcom said the True Confidence was Barbados flagged and Liberian owned.

The White House condemned the group and called on “governments around the world to do the same.” Speaking to reporters, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said the Houthis’ ongoing attacks were “reckless” and “appalling,” and had upended international commercial shipping.

Asked whether the United States continues to hold Iran responsible for violence emanating from Yemen, she said the Biden administration’s stance is unchanged.

The area where the attack took place has become an especially dangerous transit zone as the Houthis have carried out dozens of attacks in what they have described as a response to Israel’s actions in Gaza. A U.S.-led military coalition has been active off the Arabian peninsula since the fall and had dispatched warships to the True Confidence to “assess the situation,” Centcom said.

On Wednesday, British marine safety firm Ambrey said rescue and salvage operations were underway. It said an Indian navy vessel, after attempting to contact the damaged cargo ship, was observed “in the vicinity.”

Earlier, Ambrey said the Barbados-flagged cargo ship was “drifting” about 57 nautical miles from the southwestern coast of Yemen.

Ambrey said the vessel was traveling toward the northwest when it was “highly likely hailed by an entity declaring itself to be” the Yemeni navy and ordered to change course.

After the ship was observed turning around and sailing in a different direction, it started to drift and stopped transmitting its location and identification signal, Ambrey said.

During the ongoing war in Gaza, Houthi forces have attacked merchant and military vessels in the Gulf of Aden, the Red and Arabian seas, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait — an important area for international trade and maritime traffic.

This week, the cargo ship Rubymar sank in the Red Sea after an attack by Houthi militants, taking about 21,000 metric tons of fertilizer down with it, posing a significant environmental risk to one of the world’s busiest waterways and the home of many coral reefs.

The United States and Britain have responded with strikes against Yemen, and in December, Washington announced a new coalition of countries that would work to counter Houthi attacks and ensure “freedom of navigation for all countries.”

Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.



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