Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis seize vessel in Red Sea ‘terrorist act’

Saudi-led Coalition didn't say how many people were on ship

epa07934862 Members of Houthi militia pass a destroyed building during the deployment of observers on cross-lines in Hodeidah, Yemen, 19 October 2019. According to reports, Lieutenant General of India Abhijit Guha, chair of the UN's redeployment coordination committee in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah, oversaw the deployment of observers on cross-lines and checkpoints in Hodeidah to stabilize the ceasefire and activate a new procedure for de-escalation in the port city between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government forcers. Hodeidah is the key lifeline entry point for most of the Arab country’s food imports and humanitarian aid.  EPA/NAJEEB ALMAHBOOBI
Powered by automated translation

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have hijacked a ship south of the Red Sea, the Saudi-led Coalition fighting in Yemen said on Monday.

Houthi rebels seized the vessel while it was towing a South Korean drilling rig on Sunday, Coalition spokesman Col Turki Al Malki told Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency, SPA.

The vessel, a dredge barge, is owned by a South Korean company. Col Al Malki did not say how many crew members were on the seized ship.

He said the seizure threatened vital shipping routes in the Bab Al Mandeb, the strait used for oil shipments from the Gulf to Europe, and goods from Asia.

"On Sunday, while the tugboat Rabigh-3 was sailing in the southern Red Sea, it was hijacked and subjected to armed robbery by terrorist elements affiliated to the Houthi militia," Col Al Malki said.

“This terrorist act reflects the true threat and danger of this terrorist militia on the freedom of navigation and international trade."

In a meeting with the South Korean ambassador to Yemen, Yemeni Foreign Minister Mohammed Al Hadrami condemned the seizure of the ship and called for its immediate release.

“These provocative and illegal actions will negatively affect the freedom of international navigation,” Mr Al Hadrami said.

The Houthi rebels said they had seized three vessels, including a Saudi ship, for entering Yemeni waters.

The rebels said the vessels were 5 kilometres off the Yemeni island of Uqban.

They said the Houthi coastguard forced the vessels to head to Salif port in the Red Sea province of Hodeidah.

The Houthis have in the past targeted oil tankers and military ships belonging to Saudi Arabia and its partners in the coalition fighting in Yemen’s war since 2015.