Monday, July 15, 2024

Filipino sailors were killed in the first deadly Houthi attack on commercial ships


Dario Bonazza – Reuters – archive

This photo from 2022 shows the bulk carrier True Confidence in Ravenna, Italy.


Two Filipino sailors were among those killed after a Houthi ballistic missile hit a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, in the first deadly attack by the Houthis. An armed group supported by Iran In its continuous attacks in the Red Sea.

At least three crew members were killed and four others were injured in Wednesday's attack on the M/V True Confidence, a Liberian-owned and Barbados-flagged bulk carrier, US Central Command said in a statement. Two US officials told CNN that the ship has since been abandoned, and coalition warships are now in the area to assess the situation.

The Philippine Migrant Workers Administration announced in a statement on Thursday that its citizens were killed, and said that two other Filipino crew members were seriously injured in the attack.

The deadly strike represents a major escalation of Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, which began in October in response to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The Houthis said in a statement that the strike was “accurate” and caused a fire to break out on the ship.

A Houthi statement said, “The targeting operation came after the ship's crew rejected warning messages from the Yemeni naval forces.”

The Houthis, having taken control of most of northern Yemen – including the capital, Sanaa – present themselves as the country's legitimate rulers.

The Houthi statement renewed the group's support for the Palestinian people, and said that they would not stop their attacks in the Red Sea until “the Israeli aggression stops and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted.”

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US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Wednesday that the deaths were “sadly inevitable.”

Miller said in a press conference: “The Houthis continued to launch these reckless attacks without any regard for the safety of innocent civilians crossing the Red Sea, and now they have unfortunately and tragically killed innocent civilians.”

“The United States will continue to hold the Houthis accountable for their attacks, which have not only disrupted international trade, not only disrupted freedom of navigation and international waters, and not only endangered sailors, but have now tragically killed a number of them.” He said.

The head of the UN shipping agency expressed his condolences over the deaths and made renewed calls for crew members to be protected in the wake of the tragedy.

“Innocent seafarers should never become collateral victims,” IMO Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez said in a statement.

The Houthis have launched more than 45 missile and drone attacks against commercial naval vessels, US and coalition forces operating in the Red Sea, according to US and Western officials, most of which were intercepted by US or coalition destroyers or landed in the water without harm.

So far, no military ships have been affected by Houthi drones or missiles, according to US Department of Defense spokesman Major Pete Nguyen. But more than a dozen commercial ships, including several American ships, have been hit since October, Nguyen said.

The United States and the United Kingdom have also carried out four rounds of strikes against Houthi targets inside Yemen since January, striking weapons and missile storage facilities, unmanned aerial and aerial defense systems, radars, and helicopters.

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US Central Command forces also regularly launched dynamic strikes against Houthi missiles that were preparing to launch from Yemen.

It was the Biden administration Struggling to stop the attacksHowever, the rebel group has continued to fortify its weapons stockpile in Yemen, CNN previously reported.

Several officials told CNN that the US still does not have a “denominator” that would allow it to assess what percentage of Houthi equipment the US and UK have actually destroyed in airstrikes, and it is not clear whether the US will change its military approach further.

“We know that the Houthis maintain a large arsenal,” Pentagon deputy spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said last week, hours after the Houthis hit another cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden with ballistic missiles. “They are very capable, and they have advanced weapons, because they continue to get them from Iran.”

“They continue to surprise us,” one senior defense official said, referring to the Houthis. “We don't have a good idea what they still have.”

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Despite the strong presence of US and coalition forces in the Red Sea, which includes the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and several US destroyers, Houthi attacks have caused a significant decline in the number of ships passing through the Suez Canal.

The corridor connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, allowing ships to cut thousands of miles of shipping routes instead of sailing around Africa. In the first half of February, the Suez Canal saw a 42% drop in monthly transit and an 82% drop in container tonnage from its peak in 2023, according to the United Nations.

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CNN's Jennifer Hansler, Mustafa Salem, and Sharon Braithwaite, Kathleen Magramo and Manveena Suri Contributed to reports.

Rainerio Manuel
Rainerio Manuel

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