Merchant vessel sinks in Red Sea after attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels

by IANS |

Aden, Yemen, June 19 (IANS) A merchant vessel struck by the Yemeni Houthi group days ago has sunk in the Red Sea, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), a facility of the British Navy for handling international shipping emergencies, reported.

The Greek-owned bulk carrier 'Tutor' was hit twice on June 12, approximately 66 nautical miles southwest of the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, the Yemeni government Coast Guard officials told Xinhua news agency shortly after the strikes.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea claimed that the group targeted the ship with "an unmanned boat, several drones, and ballistic missiles," causing severe damage and putting the vessel "at risk of sinking."

Sarea justified the attack by accusing the cargo ship's owner of violating a Houthi ban on entering Israeli ports.

The Coast Guard officials said an unmanned boat detonated at the stern, causing a big leak in the vessel's hull. An official added that the vessel made a distress call shortly after the first attack.

Despite search efforts, a missing crew member has not been located, officials said.

Following the incident, the UKMTO said in an update on June 15 that the crew of the vessel had been evacuated by military authorities, and the vessel had been abandoned, adrift on the water.

Since last November, the Houthis have been conducting military operations in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, targeting ships they claim are Israel-linked or bound for Israel.

The group, which controls much of northern Yemen and the crucial Hodeidah Port, has launched attacks against commercial shipping using numerous booby-trapped boats, missiles, and drones.

The Houthi attacks took place against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, which has been raging for more than eight months.

In response to the Houthi strikes, the US and the UK initiated a military operation in January, conducting air and missile strikes against Houthi targets within Yemen to deter the group.

However, the Houthis, in retaliation, subsequently expanded the scope of their targeting to include US and British commercial and military vessels.

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