Fatalities reported as Houthi missile targets cargo ship

Three crewmembers were killed and at least four others were wounded in a missile attack conducted by the Iran-backed Houthi militia against the M/V True Confidence, a Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned bulk carrier, in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, according to US Central Command (CENTCOM).

Of the four wounded crewmembers, three were in critical condition. Significant damage was caused to the vessel and all the crewmembers abandoned ship. Warships from the coalition led by the US and UK responded to the incident and were assessing the situation.

CENTCOM noted that this was the fifth anti-ship ballistic missile fired by the Houthis in the past two days. Another vessel, the M/V MSC Sky II was hit by one of the missiles on Monday and another one of the missiles was downed by the USS Carney.

“These reckless attacks by the Houthis have disrupted global trade and taken the lives of international seafarers,” said CENTCOM.

Greek-flagged bulk cargo vessel Sea Champion is docked to the port of Aden, Yemen to which it arrived after being attacked in the Red Sea in what appears to have been a mistaken missile strike by Houthi militia, February 21, 2024. (credit: FAWAZ SALMAN/REUTERS)

The Houthis released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack earlier on Wednesday, saying the strike was launched after the ship’s crew “rejected warning messages” from the Iran-backed terrorist group.

The Houthis warned that the crews of any ships they decide to target “must quickly leave after the first attack,” adding that they would not stop their assault against international maritime trade until the war in Gaza ends.

Houthi attacks against international trade continue

Houthi militants in Yemen have repeatedly launched drones and missiles against international commercial shipping since mid-November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians to oppose Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

A number of ships have been damaged in such strikes. 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.