Mick the Ram
2 months ago

Mick the Ram
2 months ago

Attempted hijacking by Houthi boats on the Red Sea repelled by US navy leaving 10 rebels dead

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by Mick the Ram

 

United States Navy helicopters answering a distress call from a commercial ship in the Red Sea, fired on “small boats” containing armed Houthi rebels who were attempting a violent hijack.

Four vessels from the Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen had fired upon the Maersk Hangzhou and got within metres of the ship when the US military responded, initially with a warning, followed by an attack sinking three after the boats fired on them, with the fourth fleeing the scene.

A Houthi spokesperson confirmed that ten of its group members were dead or missing after the incident.

The ship being targeted is registered to Singapore and operated and owned by a Danish firm. The support mission was carried out in accordance with the agreement reached by both the US and its allies to protect ships in the area.

The company, Maersk, had only resumed using the Red Sea – which is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes – just after Christmas, because Houthi forces had been attacking ships on that route since November 2023, launching more than 100 drone and missile attacks on numerous vessels.

Shipping firms, including Maersk, had been diverting away from the Red Sea and instead had been sailing around the Horn of Africa, adding precious travel time to journeys carrying cargo’s for the important markets of Europe and Asia.

The Iranian-backed Yemeni rebel group has previously claimed its attacks are directed at vessels linked to Israel, in response to the war in Gaza.

Swift response to distress call

The four Houthi boats launched their attack with mounted weapons and small arms, and got to within 20m (66ft) of the container ship, with the clear aim of boarding and seizing control. The ship’s crew issued a distress call and a security team returned fire.

The USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier and USS Gravely destroyer were nearby and responded to the call for help, sending helicopters to assist. They issued verbal calls to the boats to withdraw, but were fired at, prompting them to return fire in “self-defence” sinking three of the four small boats, and killing their crews.

The Central Command (Centcom) stated that there had been no damage recorded to either US personnel or equipment, and the ship remained seaworthy with no reported injuries. They also added that this was the 23rd “illegal attack” by the Houthis on international shipping since 19 November.

Alliance offering protection

Earlier in December, the US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, which is essentially an international coalition to safeguard shipping in the the region. Countries including the UK, Canada, France, Bahrain, Norway and Spain are part of the alliance.

The Navy added that since its launching, 1,200 commercial ships had passed through the Red Sea with none hit by drone or missile, and all had safe passage until the attacks on the Maersk Hangzhou.

Menacing “strait”

The trouble zone is the tiny Bab al-Mandab Strait, just off the coast of Yemen, which ships have to pass through to reach the Suez Canal, and onto the Mediterranean Sea.

The Houthis are an armed group from a sub-sect of Yemen’s Shia Muslim minority, the Zaidis. They take their name from the movement’s founder, Hussein al Houthi and declare themselves to be part of Iranian-led “axis of resistance” against the Israelis, the US and the wider West.

They support Hamas and Hezbollah and claim that they only target “Israel-linked” commercial ships, in response to the war in Gaza; although many of those ships fired upon were heading to destinations beyond that region.

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