Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacked a US warship and a British oil tanker, the Marlin Luanda, in the Gulf of Aden, causing a fire to break out. The rebel militia’s recent attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea are reportedly in response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza.
The fuel tanker was operated on behalf of the trading firm Trafigura, and the company confirmed that a missile struck the Marlin Luanda as it transited the Red Sea. The tanker was carrying Russian naphtha purchased below the price cap in line with G7 sanctions, according to the news agency Reuters.
A US warship, the destroyer USS Carney, was also attacked while passing through the Gulf of Aden. This incident is believed to be the biggest confrontation at sea with Western forces in the Middle East in decades.
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The attack on USS Carney is the first time the Houthis directly targeted a US warship since the rebels began their assaults on shipping in November last year. According to a US official who spoke to the news agency Associated Press, the attacks marked a major aggression.
The US Central Command confirmed that the Houthis fired an anti-ship ballistic missile toward the warship. “On January 26, at approximately 1:30 pm (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired one anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward Arleigh-Burke class destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) in the Gulf of Aden. The missile was successfully shot down by USS Carney. There were no injuries or damage reported,” the Central Command said.
The attack on the oil tanker also assumes significance as many of the previous attacks by the Houthis were on container ships and oil tankers were using the Red Sea for commute. The company said a missile struck the fuel tanker and firefighting equipment on board was being deployed to suppress and control a fire in one cargo tank. “We remain in contact with the vessel and are monitoring the situation carefully,” the company said in a statement.
In response to the attack, the UK government has said Britain and its allies “reserve the right to respond appropriately”.
“We are aware of reports that the M/V Marlin Luanda, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, has sustained damage from attack in the Gulf of Aden. Current reports suggest no casualties and nearby coalition vessels are on the scene. We have been clear that any attacks on commercial shipping are completely unacceptable and that the UK and our allies reserve the right to respond appropriately,” a UK government official said.
A Houthi military spokesperson mentioned that their naval forces conducted an operation on the oil tanker, identifying the vessel as ‘British’. However, they have not yet acknowledged the attack on the USS Carney.
According to the US Central Command, the USS Carney, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer that was involved in American operations to try to stop the Houthi campaign and the missile towards it was “successfully shot down by USS Carney”.
The escalated attacks against vessels in the Red Sea are viewed as aggression by the Iran-backed rebels. Multiple such attacks have disrupted global trade amid Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and the US and Britain have launched many rounds of airstrikes in the past few weeks.