Missiles from Houthi-held Yemen are ‘target commercial tanker’

Another tanker reports ‘exchange of fire’ with speedboat off Yemen’s coastal city of Hodeidah.

Two missiles launched from territory controlled by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have targeted a commercial tanker near the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait, according to a United States official cited by The Associated Press news agency.

The missiles fired on Wednesday missed the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel Ardmore Encounter, which was travelling north towards the Suez Canal in the Red Sea, according to tracking data. It was the first time that the group has targeted an energy shipment heading to the Suez Canal.

The ship was carrying Indian-manufactured jet fuel and was heading for either Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Gavle, Sweden, Ardmore Shipping Corp said. It was coming from Mangalore in southern India and had an armed security crew on board.

The Iran-aligned Houthis, who say they will target any ship travelling to or from Israel amid the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, did not immediately comment on Wednesday’s attacks.

But on Tuesday, Houthi official Mohammed Ali al-Houthi warned cargo ships in the Red Sea to avoid travelling towards Israel and to promptly respond to any Houthi attempts to contact them.

Ardmore Shipping said no one was injured and the vessel was “fully operational”.

“No one boarded the vessel and all crew members are safe and accounted for,” the company told the AP. “The vessel remains fully operational with no loss of cargo or damage on board.”

A US warship also shot down a suspected Houthi drone flying in its direction during the incident, said the anonymous US official cited by AP. No one was hurt in the attack.

The Houthis’ attacks in vital shipping lanes, as well as their firing of drones and missiles at Israel from more than 1,600km (1,000 miles) away, have raised fears of regional escalation from the Gaza war and jeopardised cargo shipments.

Meanwhile, a Marshall Islands-flagged chemical tanker on Wednesday reported an “exchange of fire” with a speedboat some 102km (63 miles) from Yemen’s coastal city of Hodeidah, according to an advisory note from British maritime security company Ambrey cited by the Reuters news agency.

The boat, hailed by an entity claiming to be the Yemeni Navy, approached the tanker and began firing some 300m away.

Ambrey said the speedboat next approached a Malta-flagged bulk carrier 52 nautical miles off Hodeidah’s shores.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, earlier reported a separate incident off the coast of Oman. It said a vessel had been followed by five to six boats carrying machine guns and men in grey uniforms, before escaping unharmed.

Al-Houthi, a senior official in the group, had previously warned vessels against “falsifying their identity” or raising flags different from the country belonging to the cargo ship owner.

On Tuesday, the Houthis said they hit a Norwegian tanker, in their fifth attack on vessels since the Gaza war began on October 7.

The Norwegian owned and operated ship, Strinda, was struck on Monday night as it passed through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which separates East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.

The rebel group said it targeted that ship because it was delivering crude oil to an Israeli terminal.

The owner of the vessel said the ship was on its way to Italy.


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