Vietnamese, Filipinos killed in Houthi missile attack amid Israel-Hamas conflicts

By AP   March 7, 2024 | 01:16 am PT
Vietnamese, Filipinos killed in Houthi missile attack amid Israel-Hamas conflicts
A view of the True Confidence following an attack by Houthi forces. Photo by Reuters
A Vietnamese and two Filipinos have been killed amid missile attacks by Yemen's Houthi forces on a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, according to the U.S. military.

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 ship's managers and owners said the ship's crew of 20 included one Indian, 15 Filipino 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.

"One Vietnamese and two Filipino crew members have lost their lives," a statement from the owners and managers of the True Confidence said early Thursday. "A further two Filipinos crew members have suffered serious injuries. All crew members were taken to Djibouti."

The Philippines' Migrant Workers Department confirmed the deaths and the number of wounded from the attack.

The Philippines "calls for continued diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions and to address the causes of the current conflict in the Middle East," it said.

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 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.

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 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."

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