Two dead in first fatal Houthi attack on Red Sea shipping

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Two seafarers were killed in a Houthi missile attack on a Red Sea Greek-owned freighter on Wednesday, British and US officials said, the first fatalities reported since the Iran-aligned Yemeni group began strikes against shipping in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, which set the Greek-owned, Barbados-flagged ship True Confidence ablaze around 50 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen’s port of Aden.

In a statement on X directly responding to the Houthi claim, Britain’s embassy wrote: “At least 2 innocent sailors have died. This was the sad but inevitable consequence of the Houthis recklessly firing missiles at international shipping. They must stop.”

“Our deepest condolences are with the families of those that have died and those that were wounded.”

A senior US official also confirmed two sailors had died.

The Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea since November in what they claim is a campaign in solidarity with Palestinians during the war in Gaza.

Britain and the United States have been launching retaliatory strikes against the Houthis, and the confirmation of fatalities could lead to pressure for stronger military action.

Earlier, a shipping source said four mariners had been severely burned and three were missing after a missile hit the ship.

The Greek operators of the True Confidence said the vessel was struck about 50 nautical miles southwest of the Yemeni port of Aden and was drifting and ablaze. They said no information was available about the status of 20 crew and three armed guards on board, who included 15 Filipinos, four Vietnamese, two Sri Lankans, an Indian and a Nepali national.

A US defence official said smoke was seen coming from the True Confidence. The official, who also declined to be identified, told Reuters a lifeboat had been seen in the water near the ship.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said it had received a report of an incident 54 nautical miles southwest of Aden, which lies near the entrance to the Red Sea, adding that the vessel had been abandoned by the crew and was “no longer under command”.

“Coalition forces are supporting the vessel and the crew,” UKMTO said.

Four days ago, the Rubymar, a UK-owned bulk carrier, became the first ship to sink as a result of a Houthi attack, after floating for two weeks with severe damage from a missile strike. All crew were safely evacuated from that vessel.

The United States and Britain have launched retaliatory strikes against the Houthis intended to protect shipping, and severe injuries or fatalities among merchant crew could lead to calls for stronger action.

The Houthi attacks have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa. The cost of insuring a seven-day voyage through the Red Sea has risen by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While the militia has said it would attack vessels with links to the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel, shipping industry sources say all ships could be at risk.

The True Confidence is owned by the Liberian-registered company True Confidence Shipping and operated by the Greece-based Third January Maritime, both firms said in their joint statement. They said the ship had no link to the United States.

Source: Reuters