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Houthis Cripple Cargo Ship With Explosive Drone Boat Attack

Houthi fighters (Middle East Institute/Released)
June 13, 2024

Yemen’s Houthis launched a successful attack on a commercial vessel on Wednesday using an explosive-laden unmanned surface vessel (USV).

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sare’e announced the successful USV attack on Tuesday, stating the remotely-operated explosive boat caused severe damage to the Liberian-flagged bulk carrier M/V Tutor.

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)—which oversees U.S. military operations in and around the Middle East—confirmed the USV’s impact against the Tutor. CENTCOM said it successfully intercepted multiple Houthi-launched ballistic and cruise missiles but did not stop the explosive-laden remote-operated boat before it struck the cargo ship. CENTCOM reported the USV’s impact caused severe flooding and damage to the cargo ship’s engine room.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), a monitoring office associated with the British Navy, reported that the ship was taking on water and was no longer being crewed as of Wednesday afternoon.

The USV operation marks one of several Houthi attacks that have succeeded in damaging commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea and adjoining Gulf of Aden. This attack, however, appears to be the first time the Houthis successfully used an explosive USV against a target vessel.

The Ukrainian military has claimed successful strikes on enemy Russian ships using similar explosive-laden USVs. Their Sea Baby and MAGURA V5 USVs resemble jetskis and are equipped to carry explosive payloads and remotely piloted up to a target in a one-way “kamikaze” type mission.

The Houthi attack on the Tutor is part of a broader campaign to disrupt international shipping and damage vessels the Yemeni faction believes are connected to Israel and its allies. The Houthis began launching these attacks in October as the Israeli military began its campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Houthis have said their attacks are done in solidarity with Gaza’s Palestinian population as they contend with air and artillery bombardments, Israeli ground operations, and constraints on access to food, water, and other humanitarian supplies.

Sare’e said the Houthis specifically targeted the Tutor after they assessed the commercial vessel was bound for an Israeli-controlled port.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces affirm their commitment to continue their military operations in support of the Palestinian people’s plight and in response to the American-British aggression against our country until the aggression ceases and the siege is lifted on the people of Gaza,” Sare’e said.

The U.S. government has, for years, concluded the Houthis are aligned with the government of Iran.

The Houthis are a primarily Shia Muslim faction and have fought with Yemen’s predominantly Sunni Muslim government for years. A U.S.-backed Saudi Arabian-led coalition of Arab states intervened against the Houthis, but this Yemeni civil war has largely died down in recent months with efforts to establish and maintain a lasting ceasefire in the country. While the interfactional fighting within Yemen has waned, the Houthis have focused much of their attention toward the ongoing Israeli-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip.

President Donald Trump’s administration labeled the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) and specially-designated global terrorist (SDGT) faction in Janaury 2021, shortly before turning over the presidency to Joe Biden. The Biden administration undid those designations within days of taking office, but has reapplied the SDGT label against the Houthis in recent months as they’ve continued to target vessels transiting the Red Sea shipping lane. The Biden administration has indicated it could reverse that SDGT designation if the attacks cease.

CENTCOM admonished the Houthis for this latest attack crippling the Tutor.

“This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” the U.S. military component said.

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.