Houthi rebels attack US cargo ship off Yemen coast and vow 'more attacks are coming'

17 January 2024, 21:29

File photo of a ship passing near Yemen
File photo of a ship passing near Yemen. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

The Houthis have claimed responsibility for a strike on an US cargo ship sailing off the coast of Yemen - and warned that more is to come.

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The Iran-backed Yemeni rebels said they were behind an attack on the Ginko Picardie vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

The Royal Navy had earlier reported the strike, which took place about 70 miles south east of the city of Aden, without naming the target or identifying the attacker.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, an arm of the Royal Navy that oversees Middle Eastern waterways, said that the ship's captain reported a fire onboard which had been put out.

"Vessel and crew are safe and proceeding to next port of call," the navy said.

Read more: Price rises, interest rate hikes and terror concerns: What could the Houthi ship attacks and UK response mean for you?

Read more: US launches fresh wave of strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen

Grant Shapps - US-UK strikes ‘dealt a blow’ to Houthis in the Red Sea

A spokesperson for the Houthis said: "The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against the American ship (Ginko Picardie) in the Gulf of Aden with a number of suitable naval missiles, and the hit was accurate and direct, thanks to God.

"The Yemeni armed forces will not hesitate to target all sources of threat in the Arab and Red Bahrain within the legitimate right to defend dear Yemen and to continue supporting the oppressed Palestinian people."

The Houthis have launched a series of similar attacks on vessels since November in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea over what they say is an attempt to back Hamas and Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip amid Israel's war on Hamas.

The US and its allies have carried out three rounds of air strikes targeting Houthi sites over the last week, to try to deter the militants.

James O'Brien on US-UK intervention against the Houthis

However, the Houthis have launched several attacks in the time since, further endangering ships travelling on a crucial trade route for cargo and energy shipments moving from Asia and the Middle East towards Europe.

The Houthi attacks are one part of wider tensions gripping the region. Iran staged air strikes late on Monday in Iraq, killing at least four people.

The UK's ambassador to Iraq, Stephen Hitchen, said on Wednesday that a British national, Karam Mikhael, was among the civilians killed there.

Iran has been edging closer to acknowledging its own role in attacking a vessel in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka and India on January 4. The chemical tanker Pacific Gold was struck by what the US Navy called "an Iranian one-way attack" drone, causing some damage to the vessel but no injuries.

Houthi fighters in December
Houthi fighters in December. Picture: Getty

On Wednesday, Lebanese broadcaster Al-Mayadeen reported Iran's Revolutionary Guard carried out that attack, as well as another one not independently confirmed on a separate vessel.

Al-Mayadeen is a channel politically affiliated with Hezbollah which has previously announced other Iran-linked attacks in the region.

The Pacific Gold is managed by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, a company that is ultimately controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. Eastern Pacific has previously been targeted in suspected Iranian attacks.

Iran potentially acknowledging the Pacific Gold attack comes as Tehran has been trying to lash out without directly targeting either the US or Israel.

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