Two Filipinos killed in Houthi missile attack off Aden coast

Several other citizens injured in attack on bulk carrier True Confidence

The Barbados-flagged bulk carrier True Confidence. Reuters
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Two Filipinos were among three crew members killed when a Houthi missile struck a cargo ship in the Red Sea, as calls were made to protect crews from further attacks.

The Philippines government paid tribute to “heroic seafarers” after the strike on the True Confidence, a Liberian-owned, Greek-operated vessel, on Wednesday afternoon.

A Vietnamese citizen was also killed, Bloomberg reported, citing a statement by the ship's owners.

Four further crew suffered serious injuries, including burns.

The deaths are the first civilian casualties inflicted by the Houthis since the Iran-backed rebel group began targeting Red Sea shipping over Israel's war in Gaza.

The Filipino government said it was working to establish the condition of the other 20 crew members, the majority of whom are believed to be Filipino, because “we have been informed they have been taken to a safe port”.

One Indian and four Vietnamese citizens were also serving as crew members, alongside three armed guards from Sri Lanka and Nepal, the ship's management said.

The True Confidence flew the flag of Barbados, where many ships are registered for tax reasons.

A Houthi official claimed the ship was US-owned. The ship's management acquired the vessel on February 23, according to the Equasis registry, reportedly from a US company.

The US Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Red Sea, told The National it had no further comment on the incident.

Third January Maritime, the Greece-based operator, has been approached for comment.

The Indian Navy deployed a warship to respond.

It provided “critical medical aid” to the rescued crew members, the navy said, adding that the crew members were taken to Djibouti.

It published footage of crew members being rescued by helicopter and treated by paramedics.

Manila reiterated calls on ships in the region to “comply strictly” with the expanded designation of high-risk areas and to “implement appropriate risk mitigation measures, such as rerouting vessels and deploying armed security on board such vessels”.

The Barbados-flagged bulk carrier suffered “significant damage” in the attack. Several vessels nearby reported an explosion near the ship, which was later abandoned by the crew.

It had been ordered to alter course by elements identifying themselves as the Yemeni Navy, security agencies said, while Houthi official Yehya Saree said the ship was attacked after ignoring “repeated warnings” from the group.

The Houthis have continued to attack ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden despite increasing international efforts to curb the major disruption caused by the group.

Spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam blamed the US for provoking the attacks, saying Washington is responsible for "everything that happens" in the Red Sea.

He said ships are targeted if they do not heed to Houthi warnings to alter course.

"There are those who comply and retreat, and there are those who refuse and are targeted, and we hold America responsible for the repercussions of everything that happens in the Red Sea."

The spokesman also said the war on Gaza is "distinctly American," and said Israel "was only a tool" in the attacks on the Palestinian people.

The secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation condemned the attack and said "innocent seafarers should never become collateral victims".

'We all need to do more to protect seafarers," Arsenio Dominguez said.

"I once again call for collective action to fortify the safety of those who serve at sea. International trade depends on international shipping and international shipping cannot go on without seafarers.”

The US and UK have launched successive rounds of air strikes on Houthi positions in Yemen, while several countries, including China, have also bolstered their military presence in regional waterways to defend commercial shipping.

The militants have vowed to continue attacking ships until Israel ends its war in Gaza, where more than 30,700 Palestinians have been killed since early October.

The attacks also threaten marine life, with the sinking of the Rubymar – damaged in a missile attack last month – expected to pose a long-term risk to the area's marine ecosystem.

Additional reporting by Taniya Dutta in New Delhi

Houthi attacks in Red Sea leave Yemen's fishermen in troubled waters

Houthi attacks in Red Sea leave Yemen's fishermen in troubled waters
Updated: March 07, 2024, 11:22 AM