Houthis claim to have attacked British destroyer, two other ships off coast of Yemen

Iran-backed rebels say they targeted the HMS Diamond with ballistic missiles; UK Defense Ministry dismisses statement as untrue

Yemeni youths take part in a parade in support of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels on June 9, 2024. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
Yemeni youths take part in a parade in support of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels on June 9, 2024. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said Sunday that they had targeted ships off the country’s coast with missiles and drones after maritime security firms said two vessels had caught fire after being hit by projectiles.

In a statement on social media platform X, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said the Iran-backed group had attacked “two ships belonging to companies that violated” its directives not to enter Israeli ports.

He identified the vessels as the Liberia-flagged MSC Tavvishi and the Norderney, which sails under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda.

Saree also said that the British naval warship the HMS Diamond had also been targeted, although the United Kingdom dismissed his claim as false.

“These claims are untrue,” a British Ministry of Defence spokesperson said in response to Saree’s announcement that an “accurate” attack had been mounted against the ship with ballistic missiles.

The Houthi announcement came after maritime security firm Ambrey said an Antigua and Barbuda-flagged cargo ship caught fire after being hit by a missile off Yemen on Saturday night.

“The ship was heading southwest along the Gulf of Aden at a speed of 8.2kts when the forward station was struck by a missile. A fire started but was neutralized,” Ambrey said in a statement.

A second missile was sighted but missed and “small boats in the vicinity opened fire on the ship” causing it to change direction to port.

“No injuries were reported,” the security firm added.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), run by Britain’s Royal Navy, said an “unknown projectile” hit a vessel off Yemen around 8 p.m. on Saturday, starting a small fire in the mooring station that was extinguished.

“All crew are reported safe and the vessel is now proceeding to its next port of call,” it said.

In a separate incident on Saturday night, the UKMTO reported another projectile struck a ship “on the aft section,” resulting in a fire. No casualties were reported.

“Vessels are advised to transit with caution,” it said.

Houthi supporters attend a rally against the war in the Gaza Strip and the US-led bombing in Yemen in Sanaa on Friday, June 7, 2024. (AP/Osamah Abdulrahman)

The Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, have attacked ships off its coast for months, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which broke out after the terror group launched a devastating shock assault on southern Israel.

Houthi fighters have launched drone and missile attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden, forcing shippers since November to take longer and more costly journeys around southern Africa.

The United States and Britain have carried out strikes against Houthi targets in response to the attacks.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel, and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration. A US-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes on May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.

But while gaining more attention internationally, the secretive group has cracked down on dissent at home. Eleven Yemeni employees of United Nations agencies and others working for aid groups were detained by the Houthis under unclear circumstances last week, as the rebels face increasing financial pressure and airstrikes from the US-led coalition. The Iran-backed group also recently sentenced 44 people to death.

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