Suspected Houthi attack targets Liberian ship transiting Bab al-Mandab Strait

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A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi militants targeted a Liberian-flagged tanker in the narrow Bab al-Mandab Strait on Wednesday, as authorities acknowledged the group launched their longest-range attack yet on a US-flagged vessel near the Arabian Sea.

The attacks come after an unexplained pause of a week and a half.

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The militants may be regrouping ahead of the arrival of a new US aircraft carrier to the region after the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower began heading home.

The Joint Maritime Information Center, which is overseen by the US Navy, identified the Liberian-flagged vessel as the Mount Fuji.

The attack occurred south of Mocha, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said. The captain reported explosions off the vessel’s side.

The “vessel and all crew are safe,” the UKMTO said. “The vessel is proceeding to its next port of call.”

The Houthis have been attacking ships in the busy Red Sea corridor since November after the Israel-Hamas war began in Gaza.

The militants have not claimed the most recent attack as of early Thursday, though they often don’t do so for hours or days.

On Tuesday, the Houthis said they launched missiles at a US-flagged container ship in the Gulf of Aden.

The JMIC identified the ship as the Maersk Sentosa and said it was the longest-distance attack seen from Yemen by the Houthis since November.

Late Tuesday, the Houthis issued a broad claim of responsibility for three attacks, which included the Maersk Sentosa. Maersk, a Danish firm that is the world’s biggest shipping company, confirmed to The Associated Press that its vessel had been targeted.

“No injuries to the crew or damage to the ship or cargo were reported,” the shipping company said in the statement. “The vessel is currently continuing her voyage towards her next port of call.”

The group has targeted more than 70 vessels by firing missiles and drones in their campaign that has killed four sailors. They seized one vessel and sank two since November.

In June, the number of Houthi attacks on merchant vessels increased to levels not seen since December, according to the JMIC.

US-led airstrikes have targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes on May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the Houthis say.

The Houthis maintain that their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain as part of the group’s support for the militant group Hamas in its war against Israel.

However, many of the ships attacked have little or no connection to the war — including some bound for Iran, which backs the Houthis.

Few of the Houthi attacks have targeted US-flagged commercial vessels.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is due to enter the Middle East region and replace the Eisenhower, which spent months in the Red Sea to counter the Houthis.

The Navy has not offered new details on the Roosevelt’s location, though an image published by the Navy put the carrier in the South China Sea on Friday.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the US Central Command said its forces destroyed two uncrewed Houthi aerial vehicles and one uncrewed Houthi surface vehicle over the Red Sea.

With The Associated Press

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Vessel off Yemen’s Mokha reports explosion nearby, says crew safe: UKMTO

Yemen’s Houthis target Maersk Sentosa ship with missiles in Arabian Sea

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