Crew abandon ship ‘attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels’

The crew of a commercial ship struck in a suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels have abandoned the vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations centre said that the Barbados-flagged True Confidence was no longer under the command of its crew.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Those vessels have included at least one with cargo bound for Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory.

Pictures of the Month in Middle East Photo Gallery
Houthi supporters attend a rally against the US-led strikes on Yemen and Israel’s war in Gaza (Osamah Abdulrahman/AP)

They include the attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertiliser, the Rubymar, which sank on Saturday after drifting for several days, and the downing of an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

It was unclear why the Houthis targeted the True Confidence. However, it had previously been owned by Oaktree Capital Management, a Los Angeles-based fund that finances vessels on instalments..

Meanwhile, a separate Houthi assault on Tuesday apparently targeted the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that has been involved in the American campaign against the rebels.

The Houthi attack on the Carney involved bomb-carrying drones and one anti-ship ballistic missile, the US military’s Central Command said.

The US later launched an air strike destroying three anti-ship missiles and three bomb-carrying drone boats, the Central Command said.

Brigadier General Yahya Saree, a Houthi military spokesperson, acknowledged the attack but claimed its forces targeted two American warships.

The Houthis “will not stop until the aggression is stopped and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted”, Saree said.

The Houthis have not offered any assessment of the damage they have suffered in the American-led strikes that began in January, though they have said at least 22 of their fighters have been killed.

Meanwhile, the Indian navy released a video of its sailors from the INS Kolkata fighting a fire aboard the MSC Sky II, which had been targeted by the Houthis in the Gulf of Aden on Monday.

(PA Graphics)

The Mediterranean Shipping Co, a Switzerland-based company, said the missile struck the ship as it was traveling from Singapore to Djibouti.

“The missile caused a small fire that has been extinguished while no crew were injured,” the company said.

Iran separately announced the seizure of crude oil aboard the Advantage Sweet through an announcement carried by the judiciary’s state-run Mizan news agency.

At the time, Iranian commandos rappelled from a helicopter on to the vessel, which it alleged collided with another ship, without offering any evidence.

The court order for the seizure offered an entirely different reason for the confiscation.

Mizan said it was part of a court order over US sanctions it alleged barred the importation of a Swedish medicine used to treat patients suffering from epidermolysis bullosa, a rare genetic condition that causes blisters all over the body and eyes.

The Advantage Sweet had been in the Persian Gulf in late April, but its track showed no unusual behaviour as it transited through the Strait of Hormuz, where a fifth of all traded oil passes.

Iran has made allegations in other seizures that later fell apart as it became clear Tehran was trying to leverage the capture as a chip to negotiate with foreign nations.

Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, said on Wednesday that the Advantage Sweet had been “seized under false pretences” and that the company “has not had any direct communication with Iran over the seizure of the vessel”.

“Chevron has not been permitted access to the vessel and considers the cargo a total loss due to Iran’s illegal actions,” Chevron said in a statement. “We now consider the cargo the responsibility of the Iranian government.”

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