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While the Iran-backed rebels maintained they had struck the commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden, the US military later said the group’s missiles had missed their mark.
The Huthis said in a statement posted to social media that their “naval forces… carried out a targeting operation against an American ship” — identified as the Chem Ranger — “with several appropriate naval missiles, resulting in direct hits”.
It did not give a time nor other details for the latest attack in international shipping lanes.
The US military’s Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East, said the Huthis “launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles at M/V Chem Ranger, a Marshall Island-flagged, US-owned, Greek-operated tanker” on Thursday night.
“The crew observed the missiles impact the water near the ship. There were no reported injuries or damage to the ship,” the command said on social media platform X.
Continued Huthi aggression against vessels in and around the Red Sea has led to strikes in Yemen by US and British forces, with the United States reporting its latest attack on Huthi targets on Thursday.
The specialist website Marine Traffic said the Chem Ranger was a chemical tanker sailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Kuwait.
British maritime risk management company Ambrey said a Marshallese chemical tanker sailing the same route had reported an incident southeast of the Yemeni port of Aden.
“An Indian warship responded to the event,” it said.
The British maritime security agency UKMTO, without identifying the vessel, also reported an incident in the same area, adding in a bulletin that the “vessel and crew are safe, vessel proceeding to next port”.
– Continued strikes –
The Huthis have launched numerous attacks on ships in the waters around Yemen since the war in Gaza erupted on October 7 with Hamas’s bloody attack on Israel.
The Huthi statement said the rebels were acting against “the oppression of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and within the response to the American-British aggression against our country”.
Separately, a senior Huthi official promised safe passage through the Red Sea for Russian and Chinese vessels.
Some shipping firms are avoiding the waters around Yemen but Mohammed al-Bukhaiti insisted it was safe so long as vessels were not linked to Israel.
“As for all other countries, including Russia and China, their shipping in the region is not threatened,” Bukhaiti said in an interview with Russian outlet Izvestia published on Friday.
Russia said on Thursday the United States should halt its strikes against the Huthis to aid a diplomatic resolution to the attacks on merchant vessels.
“The most important thing now is to stop the aggression against Yemen, because the more the Americans and the British bomb, the less willing the Huthis are to talk,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
US President Joe Biden conceded on Thursday the US counterstrikes had yet to deter the Huthi attacks but added: “Are they going to continue? Yes.”
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that US forces on Thursday had hit “a couple of anti-ship missiles that we had reason to believe were being prepared for imminent fire into the southern Red Sea”.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said US Navy warplanes carried out the strikes, and that the air raids that began against the Huthis last week had been able to “degrade and severely disrupt and destroy a significant number of their capabilities”.
Several major shipping firms have halted their traffic through the area because of the attacks.
Denmark said Thursday it would join the coalition behind the air strikes against the Huthis.
The Scandinavian country, which has said it would send a frigate to the region, is home to shipping giant Maersk, which is among the firms to have rerouted ships away from the Red Sea.
‘Safe passage’ for Russian, and Chinese ships
A senior Houthi official has promised safe passage for Russian and Chinese vessels through the Red Sea, where the Iran-backed Yemeni rebel group has been carrying out attacks on commercial ships in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
In an interview published by Russian outlet Izvestia on Friday, senior Huthi official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti insisted the waters around Yemen, which some shipping firms are avoiding due to the ongoing aggression, were safe so long as vessels were not linked to certain countries, particularly Israel.
“As for all other countries, including Russia and China, their shipping in the region is not threatened,” he said.
“Moreover, we are ready to ensure the safe passage of their ships in the Red Sea, because free navigation plays a significant role for our country.”
Attacks on vessels “in any way connected with Israel” would continue, he added.
The Iran-backed rebels have recently said US- and British-linked ships were also fair game after the two countries launched air strikes in Yemen in response to the repeated attacks.
The Huthis claimed early on Friday another attack on a US ship after the United States launched fresh strikes on rebel targets the day before.
The Huthis have launched numerous attacks in the vital shipping lanes around Yemen since the war in Gaza erupted on October 7 with Hamas’s bloody attack on Israel.
In Friday’s interview, Bukhaiti said the blame for the shipping attacks rested with the vessels that ignored Huthi’s orders to change course.
“Ansar Allah does not pursue the goal of capturing or sinking this or that sea vessel,” he said, using the group’s official name.
“Our goal is to raise the economic costs for the Jewish state to stop the carnage in Gaza.”
Bukhaiti defended his group’s capture in November of the Galaxy Leader — a merchant vessel linked to an Israeli businessman — as “a precautionary step for everyone else to follow our requirements”.
The ship’s crew, who are still being held, “are fine, and we are giving them a warm welcome”, he added.
While the Huthis insist their attacks only target vessels of certain nationalities, a US Navy commander has said the ships involved have ties to dozens of countries.