Sailor injured, cargo ship ablaze after missile attack by Yemen’s Houthis

The Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, Polish-operated M/V Verbena was delivering timber to Italy when it came under attack.

The USS aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea
The US and other countries began patrols in the Red Sea after the Houthis began their attacks in November [File: Bernat Armangue/AP Photo]

Two cruise missiles launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have struck a bulk cargo carrier in the Gulf of Aden, severely injuring one of the crew.

The M/V Verbena, a Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, and Polish-operated ship, “reported damage and subsequent fires on board. The crew continues to fight the fire. One civilian mariner was severely injured during the attack,” the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on Thursday.

“Aircraft from USS Philippine Sea medically evacuated the injured mariner to a partner force ship nearby for medical attention,” it added.

The Houthis, who are locked in a war with a Saudi-led coalition after removing Yemen’s internationally-recognised government from Sanaa in 2014, have been targeting vessels with alleged Israeli links in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 2023.

They say the action is in solidarity with the Palestinians over Israel’s war on Gaza, in which at least 37,232 people have been killed.

On Thursday, the Iran-backed group said it had carried out attacks on three ships over 24 hours, including on the Verbena, “in retaliation to the crimes committed against our people in the Gaza Strip, and in response to the American-British aggression against our country”.

Earlier on Thursday, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) centre said a vessel had been attacked and caught fire, while the private security firm Ambrey said a merchant vessel made a radio distress call saying it had been struck by a missile.

The Houthis later claimed the attack on the Verbena, as well as attacks on two other ships in the Red Sea. Central Command said the Houthis had launched two ballistic missiles in the Red Sea that caused “no injuries or significant damage”.

The UKMTO said one vessel earlier missed by the Houthis was hit by a “third projectile” that caused “minor damage”. The vessel was able to remain under way, it said.

The Verbena was loaded with timber and was on its way from Malaysia to Italy, according to CENTCOM. Security and military sources told the Reuters news agency that the Verbena still had power and steering capabilities.

Thursday’s attack marked the Houthis second direct hit on a merchant ship in two days.

A day earlier, they claimed a series of small watercraft and missile attacks that left the Tutor, a Greek-owned coal carrier, taking in water near Hodeidah and in need of rescue.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs condemned the assault on the Tutor, whose crew included Filipinos.

The Houthi campaign in the Red Sea region has disrupted global shipping, causing delays and adding to international supply chain costs. The rebels have sunk one ship, seized another vessel and killed three seafarers in separate attacks. Shipping companies, meanwhile, have redirected their vessels around the southern tip of Africa adding a further 3,000-3,500 nautical miles (5,500-6,500km) to their route.

Source: News Agencies