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Apparent Houthi Attack Sets Vessel on Fire in Gulf of Aden

A missile strike believed to have been launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis on a vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday has set the ship on fire and intensified fears that the Houthis could further expand their campaign of maritime terror.  

A merchant vessel made a radio distress call, saying it had been struck by a missile as it was en route from Malaysia to Venice, Italy, according to private security firm Ambrey. 

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center also confirmed the attack and the subsequent fire in an announcement on X (formerly Twitter). 

While there has been no official confirmation from the Houthis, the private security firm said the ship was “aligned with the Houthi target profile”, an apparent reference to a connection to Israel or its allies. 

Since November last year, the U.S. Maritime Administration reports that the Houthis have launched some 50 attacks on vessels in the maritime area, with three sailors killed so far, one vessel seized, and one sunk. The U.S. has responded with an airstrike campaign against Houthi positions in Yemen, which the Houthis claim have killed at least 16 people. Washington was forced to relocate weapons to Qatar, diverting them from its base in the UAE, which had demanded that the U.S. seek permission before firing missiles at the Houthis from Emirati territory. 

In March, the Houthis threatened that they would expand operations beyond the Red Sea, targeting Israel-linked ships traversing the Indian Ocean en route to the Cape of Good Hope. This is the longer, more expensive route being used by vessels attempting to avoid the dangers of the Red Sea. 

The Gulf of Aden feeds into the Arabian Sea, through which vessels pass as they take the long way around the Horn of Africa.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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