Houthis claim direct hit on US warship as vessels attacked in Red Sea

US and allied naval forces have been involved in near daily clashes with the Iran-backed militia

US forces, along with the UK, conducted air strikes on eight Houthi targets in Yemen. EPA
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Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed to have fought off two US warships, reporting a “direct hit” on one of them while the vessels were “protecting two American commercial ships” in the Red Sea on Thursday, the group’s spokesman said.

The US said it intercepted missiles fired at two ships operated by Maersk, the shipping company that handles about 15 per cent of container shipping globally.

The company said both ships “reported seeing explosions close by” and the US Navy intercepted several projectiles, adding that the company was suspending Red Sea transits by vessels of its US subsidiary Maersk Line Limited.

Maersk has periodically suspended operations in the Red Sea since November 19 when the Houthis hijacked a ship, the Galaxy Leader. A multinational naval coalition intervened to protect the shipping lane, which carries about 12 per cent of maritime trade, leading the company to resume operations.

But they were suspended again in late December when one of its ships, Maersk Hangzhou, was struck by a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis and came under attack from militia boats, three of which were sunk by US helicopters.

Both commercial vessels were operated by Maersk Line Limited, which carries cargo for the US government agencies including the Department of Defence, Department of State and USAID.

Both are enrolled in the Maritime Security Programme and Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement with the US government, which is why they were escorted through the strait by naval vessels, Maersk said.

The vessels and crew were unharmed and were being escorted back to the Gulf of Aden by the US Navy, Maersk said. Bab Al Mandeb is the outlet of the Red Sea, between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti and Eritrea on the African coast.

“Following the escalation of risk, MLL is suspending transits in the region until further notice,” it said on Wednesday.

Seafarers remain in the line of fire and have signed agreements to receive double pay when entering the high-risk zones.

Updated: January 25, 2024, 7:36 AM