Houthi Strike That Forced Crew to Abandon Cargo Ship Leaves 2 Dead

Dario Bonazza/Reuters
Dario Bonazza/Reuters

At least two crew members aboard a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden were killed in a strike by the Yemen-based Houthi rebel group on Wednesday, the British Embassy in Sanaa announced.

The two deaths are the first fatalities from a Houthi attack on commercial shipping in the Middle East, which escalated at the end of last year in retaliation for Israel’s war with Hamas.

The crew members were killed in a missile strike, the Associated Press reported. The strike damaged the Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned bulk carrier True Confidence so severely, the ship’s owner said in a statement that its 20 crew and three armed guards had to abandon ship, Al Jazeera reported.

An additional four mariners were severely burned on True Confidence and three were reported missing, a shipping source told Reuters. It’s unclear whether the three missing sailors listed in that report includes those killed.

“At least 2 innocent sailors have died,” the British Embassy in Yemen said in a statement. “This was the sad but inevitable consequence of the Houthis recklessly firing missiles at international shipping. They must stop.”

True Confidence’s owner said the ship was struck about 50 nautical miles southwest of the Yemeni port of Aden around 11:30 a.m. local time, with the blast leaving it drifting and ablaze.

Ship Attacked Weeks Ago by Houthi Rebels Sinks in Red Sea

Reuters reported the ship was manned by 15 Filipinos, four Vietnamese, two Sri Lankans, an Indian, and a Nepali national.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency confirmed that there was an incident off the coast of Aden, which is near the entrance to the Red Sea. It added that the impacted vessel had been abandoned by the crew and was “no longer under command.”

A spokesperson for the Yemeni Armed Forces said in a statement that the attack was a triumph of the “the oppressed Palestinian people and in retaliation to the American-British aggression against our country.”

“The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against the American ship (TRUE CONFIDENCE) in the Gulf of Aden, with a number of appropriate naval missiles,” the statement said. “The strike was accurate, led to a fire breaking out on it. The targeting operation came after the ship’s crew rejected warning messages from the Yemeni naval forces.”

The spokesperson added that hostilities will continue until there is a ceasefire in Gaza—something the U.S. has been pushing for in recent weeks.

The Houthis have claimed responsibility for dozens of missile and drone attacks against commercial and U.S. naval vessels in the Red Sea, but most missiles have been intercepted by destroyers or landed harmlessly in the ocean.

The U.S. and United Kingdom responded with four rounds of strikes against Houthi targets inside Yemen this year that included weapons storage facilities, missile storage facilities, air-defense systems, and other strategic targets.

Prior to Wednesday, no military vessels had been damaged by Houthi UAVs or missiles, a Defense Department spokesperson told CNN. Commercial ships have been struck, including a cargo ship that sank in the Red Sea on Sunday, but none had led to any crew member fatalities prior to Wednesday.

The attacks have had an impact on international shipping, with the United Nations saying the Suez Canal has experienced a 42 percent drop in monthly transits this year and an 82 percent decrease in container tonnage from its peak in 2023.

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