Peril in the Gulf of Aden: Crew abandons ship after missile attack by Houthi rebels

The crew of a bulk cargo carrier that was damaged in a missile attack by Yemen’s Huthi rebels in the Gulf of Aden has abandoned ship, the US military said Saturday.

The Huthis have been targeting vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 2023 in attacks they say are in solidarity with Palestinians during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, severely damaging two ships this week.

The crew of the M/V Verbena — a Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, Polish-operated ship — issued a distress call because it could not control fires touched off by the attack with two cruise missiles from the Iran-backed rebels on Thursday, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said.

Another cargo ship, the Anna Meta, rescued the crew, CENTCOM said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

“The Iranian frigate IRIN Jamaran was eight nautical miles from M/V Verbena and did not respond to the distress call,” CENTCOM said.

The missile attack severely injured a sailor, who was evacuated by US forces.

Another cargo ship, the M/V Tutor, was abandoned after it was struck by a sea drone off the rebel-held city of Hodeida on Wednesday, causing serious flooding, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy.

The vessel is adrift in the Red Sea.

Referring to the Verbena and the Tutor in a statement on Saturday, a Huthi spokesman said the “operations are dedicated… to our brothers fighting in Gaza”.

The group also renewed its “warning to all companies about the consequences of dealing with Israel”.

The Huthis’ said at the outset of their campaign that they would target Israeli-linked vessels, later designating US and British ships as legitimate targets as well, but according to a US military commander, the attacks have affected ships with connections to scores of countries.

The Huthis seized Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the government the following year.

Yemen’s war has left hundreds of thousands of people dead, through fighting or indirect causes such as disease or lack of food, with most of the population dependent on aid.

Agence France-Presse

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