Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have criticized a new US-led multinational taskforce that will patrol the Red Sea following a series of attacks attributed to the group.
The Houthis’ chief negotiator and spokesman, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, said late Friday that formation of such a taskforce amid a cease-fire in the country’s civil war contradicts Washington’s claim of supporting the UN-brokered truce.
He said on his Telegram social media account that the US taskforce “enshrines the aggression and blockade on Yemen”, referring to the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of Houthi-held areas. The rebels seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014, about a year before the coalition entered the war on the side of Yemen’s legal government.
Iran has long been accused of smuggling weapons to the Houthis, a charge Tehran denies, but the US has seized a few shipments of Iranian weapons destined for Houthis.
The new naval task force will consist of up to eight vessels and will be part of the 34-nation Combined Maritime Forces, which has three other task forces in nearby waters targeting smuggling and piracy.
Its launch comes amid a two-month truce in the nearly seven-year Yemen war that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more, and pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine.