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Crew extinguish fire on tanker hit by Houthi missile off Yemen

Crew extinguish fire on tanker hit by Houthi missile off Yemen

The crew aboard a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker extinguished a fire that had burned for several hours, after the vessel was hit with a missile launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

The fire was put out Saturday, authorities said.

The attack on the Marlin Luanda further complicated the Red Sea crisis caused by the Iranian-backed rebels' attacks over Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The tanker carried Russian-produced naphtha, a flammable oil, drawing Moscow further into a conflict that so far it had blamed on the US.

Early on Saturday, US forces conducted a strike against a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed at the Red Sea and prepared to launch, the US military’s Central Command said. That attack came after the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, had to shoot down a Houthi missile targeting it.

The Marlin Luanda burned for hours in the Gulf of Aden until being extinguished Saturday, said Trafigura, a Singapore-based trading firm. Its crew of 25 Indian nationals and two Sri Lankans were still trying to battle the blaze sparked by the missile strike, it said. No one was injured by the blast, it added.

A view of the oil tanker Marlin Luanda on fire after an attack, in the Gulf of Aden
A view of the oil tanker Marlin Luanda on fire after an attack, in the Gulf of Aden - Indian Navy via AP

The Indian navy said its guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam was assisting the Marlin Luanda's crew in fighting the fire. It posted images showing the blaze still raging on Saturday - likely fueled by the naphtha on board.

The ship, managed by a British firm, is carrying the Russian naphtha bound for Singapore, the company said. It described the flammable oil as being purchased below the price caps set by G7 sanctions placed on Russia over its ongoing war on Ukraine. It wasn't clear what environmental impact the attack had caused.

Houthi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree claimed the attack on the Marlin Luanda in a pre-recorded statement late on Friday, describing it as a “British oil ship.” He insisted such attacks would continue.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperilling shipping in a key route for global trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe.

Since the airstrike campaign began, the rebels now say they’ll target American and British ships as well.

China, which relies on the seaborne trade through the area, has called for calm. The US had sought to get China to apply pressure on Iran, as Beijing remains a major buyer of Western-sanctioned Iranian oil.

Russia has condemned the US and the United Kingdom for carrying out strikes targeting Houthis, while also meeting with the rebel group in Moscow in recent days.

Meanwhile on Saturday, authorities reported a separate incident in which a vessel in the Arabian Sea reported seeing people armed with assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade neart their ship. Everyone onboard was reported as safe.

The private security firm Ambrey described the incident as involving a “Somali-style” small boat aided by a larger mothership. As the Houthi attacks have escalated, there's been an increase in suspected Somali pirate activity as well.