Houthis strike US-owned ship, killing two

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Eight people were injured, two of them fatally, when Yemeni missiles struck the merchant vessel True Confidence in the Gulf of Aden, the US military said on Wednesday. The crew had to abandon ship, which is at risk of sinking.

The Houthis, styling themselves the government of Yemen, began targeting Israeli-linked ships in late October, protesting the military operation against the Palestinians in Gaza. They added American and British ships in January, after the two countries launched air and missile strikes against Yemen.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree confirmed the attack on Wednesday evening, saying that the True Confidence was struck “after the ship’s crew ignored the Yemeni naval forces’ warning messages.”

“The strike was precise, by the grace of Allah, leading to a fire outbreak on board,” Saree said. 

He also warned all ships “to respond to the calls of the Yemeni naval forces, and all crews of the targeted ships must quickly depart after the first strike.”

Two members of the True Confidence crew were killed and six injured in multiple missile strikes, according to two Pentagon officials who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity. There were no Americans on board, they said.

An Indian warship that was nearby took in the 23 crew members who evacuated the cargo vessel. US officials described the True Confidence as “damaged but has not sunk yet.” 

Maritime tracking showed True Confidence on approach to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on Tuesday evening before making a sharp turn back towards the Gulf of Aden. The vessel was registered in Liberia, which is a popular flag of convenience for merchant ships, but its owner has been reported as the US-based multinational Oaktree Capital Management LLC.

Earlier this week, the British-owned bulk carrier Rubymar sank in the Gulf of Aden, almost two weeks after being struck by Houthi missiles and evacuated. It was the first ship sunk by the Houthis since the beginning of their campaign. 

Most Western shipping companies have rerouted their traffic around Africa in response to the Houthi attacks, which have driven up insurance premiums.

The Houthis initially fired warning shots only at vessels owned by, or headed towards, Israel. They expanded the targeting list in mid-January, after the first US-UK strikes. Undeterred, the Yemeni group has declared it will end its operations only when Israel stops attacking Gaza.