Houthi attack kills three sailors in group’s first fatal strike on shipping

Houthi-claimed missile attack on Greek-operated, Barbados-flagged commercial ship kills three sailors off the coast of Yemen.

A view shows Barbados-flagged bulk carrier vessel True Confidence, in Ravenna, Italy March 10, 2022
The True Confidence bulk carrier is no longer under the command of its crew because they have abandoned the vessel, UK Maritime Trade Operations says [File: Dario Bonazza/Reuters]

At least three seafarers have been killed in a Houthi missile attack on a merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden, the United States military said, marking the first fatalities reported since the Iran-aligned Yemeni group began attacks against shipping in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes over Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack on Wednesday, which set the Liberian-owned, Barbados-flagged ship True Confidence ablaze approximately 50 nautical miles (93km) off the coast of Yemen’s port of Aden.

The US military’s Central Command reported “three fatalities, at least four injuries, of which three are in critical condition” as well as “significant damage to the ship”.

Two aerial photos released by the US military showed the ship’s bridge and cargo on board ablaze.

“These reckless attacks by the Houthis have disrupted global trade and taken the lives of international seafarers simply doing their jobs, which are some of the hardest jobs in the world, and the ones relied on by the global public for sustainment of supply chains,” Central Command said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said the vessel was no longer under the command of the crew and they had abandoned it.


Brigadier General Yahya Saree, a Houthi military spokesman, claimed the attack in a prerecorded message, saying its missile fire set the vessel ablaze.

He said the rebels’ attacks would only stop when the “siege on the Palestinian people in Gaza is lifted”.

After the missile hit, the crew abandoned the ship and deployed lifeboats. A US warship and the Indian navy were on the scene, trying to assist in rescue efforts, according to The Associated Press news agency. It was unclear how many crew members were on board at the time, it said.

The United Nations called on the Houthis “to cease all attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, expressing serious concern about the continuing attacks, including the latest incident where the status of the crew is unknown.

Dujarric said the attacks are causing risks “to property, to life, to ecology in the area”.

Houthi fighters in Yemen have repeatedly launched drones and missiles against international commercial shipping since mid-November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians and in opposition to Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip.

The Houthi attacks have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to reroute to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa.

The True Confidence is owned by the Liberian-registered company True Confidence Shipping and operated by the Greece-based Third January Maritime, both firms said in their joint statement. They said the ship had no link to the US.

However, it had previously been owned by Oaktree Capital Management, a Los Angeles-based fund that finances vessels in instalments.

Despite more than a month and a half of US-led air raids on the Houthis, the group has remained capable of launching significant attacks.

Those attacks have included last month’s attack on a cargo ship carrying fertiliser, the Rubymar, which sank on Saturday after drifting for several days, and the downing of a US drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

A Houthi assault on Tuesday apparently targeted the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that has been involved in the US campaign against the rebels.

The attack on the Carney involved bomb-carrying drones and one antitank ballistic missile, the US military’s Central Command said.

The US later launched an air raid destroying three antiship missiles and three bomb-carrying drone boats, Central Command said.

Saree, the Houthi military spokesperson, acknowledged the attack but said its forces targeted two US warships, without elaborating.

The Houthis “will not stop until the aggression is stopped and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted”, Saree said.

Source: News Agencies