Houthi supporters during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen May 24, 2024

Iran-Backed Houthis Claim To Attack Six Ships in Three Seas

Thursday, 05/30/2024

Yemen's Houthis launched attacks on six ships in three different seas, the Iran-backed group said on Wednesday, including the Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier Laax that was damaged by a missile strike off the Yemeni coast.

Security and shipping sources confirmed the Houthis hit the Laax in a barrage of attacks on Tuesday. In a televised speech, the group also said it targeted the Morea and Sealady in the Red Sea, the Alba and Maersk Hartford in the Arabian Sea and the Minerva Antonia in the Mediterranean.

The US-flagged Maersk Hartford container ship was not the subject of a drone or missile attack, said Ed Hanley, chief operating officer of US-based Maersk Line, which owns the vessel.

"I can't speak to the other five ships, but the Hartford is fine," Hanley said in a telephone interview. "Nothing happened."

As an Iranian proxy group, the Houthis began attacking maritime commercial traffic in mid-November after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called on Muslim countries to blockade Israel. The attacks were first limited to the Red Sea but later expanded to other busy waterways such as the Indian Ocean.

The Houthis have promised to attack any ships sailing toward Israeli ports, even in the Mediterranean. They also have identified US and UK-affiliated vessels as targets.

Five missiles fired from Yemen struck the Laax, which was carrying grain, but the vessel was still able to sail to its destination and the crew were safe, the ship's security company, LSS-SAPU, told Reuters on Wednesday.

"The vessel has sustained damage, she is not taking water, she is not tilting and there are no wounded onboard," a LSS-SAPU spokesperson said.

"She is proceeding to her destination with a normal speed."

The spokesperson with LSS-SAPU, which was responsible for evacuating the crew from the Rubymar ship which sank after being hit by a Houthi missile earlier this year, said Laax's Greece-based owner had no connection with Israel or the United States.

The vessel last reported its position on May 28 with a destination of Bandar Imam Khomeini in Iran, LSEG shipping data showed.

The Houthi campaign has sunk one ship, the Rubymar, and included the seizure of another vessel and the killing of three crew members in yet another attack. It has disrupted global shipping by forcing vessels to avoid the nearby Suez Canal and reroute trade around Africa.

(With reporting by Reuters)

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