July 24th, 2024

Malta-flagged bulk carrier hit by missile in the Red Sea as Houthi attacks continue

By Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press on January 16, 2024.

JERUSALEM (AP) – A Malta-flagged bulk carrier sustained damage from a missile fired at it in the Red Sea on Tuesday, Greek officials said.

Though no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, suspicion immediately fell on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Zografia had been heading north to the Suez Canal when it was attacked, the Greek Shipping and Island Policy Ministry said.

The ship had no cargo on board and sustained only material damage, the ministry said. The crew includes 20 Ukrainians, three Filipinos and one Georgian.

Satellite-tracking data analyzed by The Associated Press showed the Zografia still moving after the attack. The Zografia is managed by a Greek firm.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations earlier acknowledged an attack in the vicinity of the Zografia.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

JERUSALEM (AP) – U.S. Navy SEALs seized Iranian-made missile parts and other weaponry from a ship bound for Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a raid last week that saw two of its commandos go missing, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

The raid marks the latest seizure by the U.S. Navy and its allies of weapon shipments bound for the rebels, who have launched a series of attacks now threatening global trade in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The seized missile components included types likely used in those attacks.

The attacks, U.S.-led retaliatory strikes and the raid all have raised tensions across the wider Middle East, which also saw Iran conduct ballistic missile strikes in both Iraq and Syria.

The SEAL raid happened last Thursday, with the commandos launching from the USS Lewis B. Puller backed by drones and helicopters, with the U.S. military’s Central Command saying it took place in the Arabian Sea.

The SEALs found cruise and ballistic missile components, including propulsion and guidance devices, as well as warheads, Central Command said. It added that air defense parts also were found.

“Initial analysis indicates these same weapons have been employed by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent mariners on international merchant ships transiting in the Red Sea,” Central Command said in a statement.

Images released by the U.S. military analyzed by The Associated Press showed components resembling rocket motors and others previously seized. It also included what appeared to be a cruise missile with a small turbojet engine – a type used by the Houthis and Iran.

The U.S. Navy ultimately sunk the ship carrying the weapons after deeming it unsafe, Central Command said. The ship’s 14 crew have been detained.

The Houthis have not acknowledged the seizure and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A United Nations resolution bans arms transfers to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Tehran has long denied arming the rebels, despite physical evidence, numerous seizures and experts tying the weapons back to Iran.

Since November, the Houthis have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea, saying they were avenging Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade.

U.S.-led airstrikes targeted Houthi positions on Friday and Saturday. In response, the Houthis launched a missile at a U.S.-owned bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden, further raising the risks in the conflict.

The SEALs traveled in small special operations combat craft driven by naval special warfare crew to get to the boat. As they were boarding it in rough seas, around 8 p.m. local time, one SEAL got knocked off by high waves and a teammate went in after him. Both remain missing.

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