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Houthi Forces Claim Another Hit on "American" Tanker

Houthi missiles
File image courtesy Houthi Military Media

Published Jan 18, 2024 5:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Hours after American forces conducted strikes on Houthi missile launch sites in Yemen, the group claimed another attack on a merchant ship linked to American operators. U.S. forces denied that the missiles struck their target. 

"The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against an American ship (Chem Ranger) in the Gulf of Aden with several appropriate naval missiles, resulting in direct hits," Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said in a statement. 

In a statement late Thursday, U.S. Central Command confirmed that Houthi forces launched two ballistic missiles at an American-owned, Greek-managed chemical tanker, the Chem Ranger. However, the U.S. authorities said that both missiles splashed down in the water without causing any damage. 

Houthi spokesman Saree also threatened further retaliation for American airstrikes, and he promised that Houthi forces will continue to attack any Israel-bound or Israel-linked shipping. He claimed (without evidence) that the Houthi campaign would not interrupt other international shipping through the Red Sea. 

Houthi forces have also targeted ships with no clear linkage to Israel or the United States, and industry bodies have warned of a general risk to shipping. Shipowners have listened, and total traffic through the Suez Canal has dropped by an estimated 40-50 percent since the group began its campaign in November. Virtually all large container ships are diverting around the Cape of Good Hope, along with a growing number of vessels of other types. The attacks have substantially raised the price of containerized freight, and the longer transit period around Africa is beginning to affect customers in northern Europe. 

The ballistic missile attacks appear to have been just one of several attempted Houthi strikes reported Thursday. In a series of advisories released Thursday night, Royal Navy security agency UKMTO reported two UAV approaches and apparent near-misses in the Gulf of Aden.

In one instance at the east end of the gulf, a merchant ship reported that four unidentified UAVs were flying nearby, and one UAV went into the water at a position about 800 meters away.

In the second incident, at a position about 115 nautical miles southeast of Aden, a vessel reported that one UAV went into the water 30 meters off the port side. No damage was reported in either encounter.