Calls to protect ship crews as three die in Houthi missile attack in Red Sea

Strike on Barbados-flagged True Confidence sees first civilians killed in group's campaign

Indian Navy in dramatic sea rescue of True Confidence crew

Indian Navy in dramatic sea rescue of True Confidence crew
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Three people were killed and at least four wounded in a Houthi missile attack on a bulk carrier off the coast of Yemen on Wednesday, the US military said, marking the first civilian casualties in the rebel group's campaign against commercial shipping in and around the Red Sea.

A missile fired from Yemen caused major damage to the Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned vessel True Confidence in the Gulf of Aden, Central Command said on X.

Centcom also said the missile hit caused "significant damage" to the ship.

International Maritime Organisation secretary general Arsenio Dominguez called for collective action to protect the safety of those who work at sea.

“It is deeply saddening to follow the horrific reports of the casualties on the merchant vessel True Confidence, following an attack on the ship south-west of Aden [in Yemen],” he said.

“Innocent seafarers should never become collateral victims.

"I want to thank the efforts of all ships in the area in assisting the vessel and particularly its crew. We all need to do more to protect seafarers.”

Earlier in the day, British and US officials said two seafarers had been killed in the attack.

The US has for months warned about the risk to civilian lives in the Red Sea as it has sought to counter Houthi threats.

"Today, the Houthis have killed innocent civilians with their actions," a US defence official told The National.

Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed the attack in a statement on Wednesday night and named the True Confidence as an “American ship”.

“The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against the American ship [True Confidence] in the Gulf of Aden, with a number of appropriate naval missiles,” said Houthi spokesman Brig Gen Yahya Saree in a statement.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the ship was not a US vessel.

"These reckless attacks by the Iran-backed group have not only disrupted global trade and commerce but also taken the lives of international seafarers who are simply doing their jobs," she told reporters.

The British embassy in Sanaa said that at least two sailors had died.

“This was the sad but inevitable consequence of the Houthis recklessly firing missiles at international shipping,” the embassy said on X. “They must stop.”

Earlier, a shipping source said that three crew members were missing from the True Confidence, while four others had sustained serious burns after a fire broke out on the vessel after the attack.

A statement from the owners said the bulk carrier was drifting with a fire burning on board, but that no information was available on the status of 20 crew members and three armed guards.

The True Confidence is owned by Liberian-registered company True Confidence Shipping and operated by the Greece-based Third January Maritime, the statement said.

“The Houthis continue to carry out these reckless attacks with no regard for the well-being of innocent civilians who are transiting through the Red Sea, and now they have, unfortunately and tragically, killed innocent civilians,” said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

“The United States will continue to hold the Houthis accountable for their attacks, which have not just disrupted international commerce, not just disrupted the freedom of navigation and international waters, and not just endangered seafarers but now tragically killed a number of them.

“So we will continue to hold them accountable and encourage governments around the world to do the same.”

British Foreign Minister David Cameron said he was appalled by the death of the seafarers.

"Appalled to hear about the deaths of MV True Confidence international crew members in a Houthi attack in the Red Sea. Our thoughts are with their families," he said in a post on X.

"We condemn the Houthis' reckless & indiscriminate attacks on global shipping & demand they stop. We will continue to stand up for freedom of navigation and back our words with actions."

The incident appears to be the first time civilian sailors have been killed since Yemen's Houthi rebels began attacking ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters in response to the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war.

Despite waves of US and UK air strikes on sites in Yemen, the Houthis have not lost the capability to launch significant attacks.

Last month, the group attacked a cargo ship carrying fertiliser, the Rubymar, which sank on Saturday after drifting for several days.

The Houthis have also downed an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, a separate Houthi attack on Tuesday was carried out against the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that has been involved in the American campaign against the rebels

The Houthi attack on the Carney involved bomb-carrying drones and one anti-ship ballistic missile, the US military's Central Command said.

The US later launched an air strike that destroyed three anti-ship missiles and three bomb-carrying drone boats, said Centcom.

Brig Saree acknowledged the attack, but claimed Houthi forces had attacked two American warships, without elaborating.

The Houthis “will not stop until the aggression is stopped and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted”, he said.

Brig Gen Saree did not acknowledge the later US air strikes.

The Houthis have not offered an assessment of the damage they have suffered in the US-led strikes that began in January, beyond saying that at least 22 of their fighters have been killed.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: March 07, 2024, 11:26 AM