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24/12/23 | 12:14 pm

Houthi attack: Navy denies US claim, says MV SAIBABA tank not India-flagged; adds all 25 Indian crew members safe

In an earlier statement, the US Central Command claimed that of the two warships that came under fire from Houthis, one was India-flagged.

The incident marks the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17, CENTCOM said in its statement.
“On December 23 two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas of Houthi militants. No ships reported being impacted by the ballistic missiles,” US Central Command posted on X.

At the same time, between 3 and 8 pm (Sanaa time), the USS LABOON (DDG 58) was patrolling the Southern Red Sea as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG).

The USS LABOON successfully intercepted and “shot down unmanned aerial drones originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen that were inbound to the USS LABOON. There were no injuries or damage in this incident”, CENTCOM added in its post.

Later, at approximately 8 pm (Sanaa time), US Naval Forces Central Command received distress reports from two ships in the Southern Red Sea indicating that they were under attack.

“The M/V BLAAMANEN, a Norwegian-flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker, reported a near miss of a Houthi one-way attack drone with no injuries or damage reported. A second vessel, the M/V SAIBABA, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker, reported that it was hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported. The USS LABOON (DDG 58) responded to the distress calls from these attacks,” the US CENTCOM claimed in its post earlier.

The US Central Command underscored the gravity of the situation, emphasising that these attacks pose a threat to the safety and security of international maritime traffic.

“These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17,” the post added.

Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, the Iranian-backed Houthis, along with other militia groups across the Middle East, have targeted US positions and assets.

Houthi forces in Yemen have been targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea, claiming the attacks as revenge against Israel, including seizing a boat last month in a raid.

India, a strong advocate for the free movement of commercial shipping, is monitoring these attacks.
Addressing a weekly presser last Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “India has always been supportive of the free movement of commercial shipping so, that is something that we are interested in. We are, of course, monitoring the developments there.”

Bagchi noted that India is also part of international efforts to ensure free shipping.
“We are also part of international efforts to ensure free shipping, whether it be piracy or otherwise, India has been involved in it. So we will continue to monitor that,” he added.

Further highlighting Operation Prosperity Guardian by the US, the MEA spokesperson said that India has been part of efforts to ensure the safe transit of ships in the Arabian Sea.

“There was some communication regarding this task force operation…We have been part of efforts to ensure the safe transit of ships in the Arabian Sea and we value the free movement of commercial shipping,” he added.
The US and other naval forces operate in the Red Sea region to defend commercial shipping, but the new task force is expected to ramp up security.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, with the two leaders sharing concerns over the safety of maritime traffic.
PM Modi reiterated the need for continued humanitarian aid for the affected people.

He further stressed an early and peaceful resolution of the conflict, including the release of all hostages, through dialogue and diplomacy.
In a post on X, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office stated, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke today with Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi. The two leaders discussed the importance of securing freedom of navigation in the Bab-el-Mandeb, which is threatened by the aggression of the Houthis, instigated by Iran.” (ANI)

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