3 killed in Houthi-claimed attack

Deaths mark first fatal strike in ongoing sea-traffic harassment

This black-and-white image released by the U.S. military's Central Command shows the fire aboard the bulk carrier True Confidence after a missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. A missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday killed three of its crew members and forced survivors to abandon the vessel, the U.S. military said. It was the first fatal strike in a campaign of assaults by the Iranian-backed group over Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (U.S. Central Command via AP)
This black-and-white image released by the U.S. military's Central Command shows the fire aboard the bulk carrier True Confidence after a missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. A missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday killed three of its crew members and forced survivors to abandon the vessel, the U.S. military said. It was the first fatal strike in a campaign of assaults by the Iranian-backed group over Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (U.S. Central Command via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday killed three of its crew members and forced survivors to abandon the vessel, the U.S. military said. It was the first fatal strike in a campaign of assaults by the Iranian-backed group over Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The attack on the Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned bulk carrier True Confidence further escalates the conflict on a crucial maritime route linking Asia and the Middle East to Europe that has disrupted global shipping. The Houthis have launched attacks since November, and the U.S. began an airstrike campaign in January that so far hasn't halted their attacks.

Meanwhile, Iran announced Wednesday that it would confiscate a $50 million cargo of Kuwaiti crude oil for American energy firm Chevron Corp. aboard a tanker it seized nearly a year earlier. It is the latest twist in a yearslong shadow war playing out in the Middle East's waterways even before the Houthi attacks began.

The U.S. military's Central Command said an anti-ship ballistic missile launched from a Houthi-controlled area in Yemen struck the True Confidence, causing significant damage to the ship. In addition to the three deaths, at least four crew members were wounded, with three in critical condition.

Two aerial photos released by the U.S. military showed the ship's bridge and cargo on board ablaze.

"These reckless attacks by the Houthis have disrupted global trade and taken the lives of international seafarers simply doing their jobs, which are some of the hardest jobs in the world, and the ones relied on by the global public for sustainment of supply chains," Central Command said.

The attack came after the ship had been hailed over radio by men claiming to be the Yemeni military, officials said. The Houthis have been hailing ships over the radio in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since beginning their attacks, with analysts suspecting the rebels want to seize the vessels.

After the missile hit, the crew abandoned the ship and deployed lifeboats. A U.S. warship and the Indian navy were on the scene, trying to assist in rescue efforts.

The ship's managers and owners said the ship's crew of 20 included one Indian, 15 Filipinos and four Vietnamese. Three armed guards, two from Sri Lanka and one from Nepal, also were on board. The ship had been carrying steel from China to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The United Nations called on the Houthis "to cease all attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, expressing serious concern about the continuing attacks, including the latest incident where the status of the crew is unknown.

Dujarric said the attacks are causing risks "to property, to life, to ecology in the area."

At the State Department in Washington, spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the attack. "We continue to watch 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," he told reporters.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre separately warned: "The U.S. obviously is going to continue to take action."

Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a Houthi military spokesman, claimed the attack in a prerecorded message, saying its missile fire set the vessel ablaze. He said the rebels' attacks would only stop when the "siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza is lifted."

The rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war, but up to Wednesday hadn't killed any crew members. The vessels have included at least one with cargo bound for Iran, the Houthis' main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory.

Meanwhile, a separate Houthi assault Tuesday apparently targeted the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that has been involved in the American campaign against the rebels. The Carney shot down bomb-carrying drones and one anti-ship ballistic missile, Central Command said. Saree acknowledged that attack as well.

The U.S. later launched an airstrike destroying three anti-ship missiles and three bomb-carrying drone boats, Central Command said.

Information for this article was contributed by Matthew Lee, Edith M. Lederer and Nasser Karimi of The Associated Press.

  photo  This black-and-white image released by the U.S. military's Central Command shows the fire aboard the bulk carrier True Confidence after a missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. A missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday killed three of its crew members and forced survivors to abandon the vessel, the U.S. military said. It was the first fatal strike in a campaign of assaults by the Iranian-backed group over Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (U.S. Central Command via AP)
 
 
  photo  The bulk carrier True Confidence is seen at Shimizu Port in Japan on July 6, 2023. A missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on the ship in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, killed three of its crew members and forced survivors to abandon the vessel, the U.S. military said. It was the first fatal strike in a campaign of assaults by the Iranian-backed group over Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Yohei Mitsugi via AP)
 
 
  photo  This photograph shared by Indian navy on the X platform shows a firefighting team from Indian Navy vessel INS Kolkata responding to a fire on Liberian-flagged Merchant ship MSC Sky II caused due to a suspected drone/missile attack in the Gulf of Aden, Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Indian Navy on X via AP)
 
 

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