New explosion off Yemen as US keeps up campaign against Huthi rebels

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An explosion was reported near a vessel off the coast of Yemen, two maritime security agencies said Thursday, the latest in a series of incidents that have disrupted global shipping.

The blast east of Yemen’s Aden came after the United States said on Thursday it had seized an Iranian weapons shipment in January destined for Yemen’s Huthi rebels, who have harassed commercial vessels on the key shipping route through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea for months.

The seizure is part of a wider effort by the United States to counter Huthi attacks which have triggered reprisals by US and British forces, including a fresh wave of American strikes this week.

On Thursday, a ship reported “an explosion in close proximity to the vessel” east of Yemen’s Aden, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said, adding the vessel was sailing to its next port of call.

Security firm Ambrey said a “bulk carrier was targeted by an explosive projectile whilst transiting” east of Aden.

“The projectile exploded… off the vessel but did not strike the vessel,” Ambrey said, adding that the attack only caused “minor damage due to shrapnel impacting a diesel generator pipe which led to a diesel leak.”

The Huthis, who control much of war-torn Yemen, have been attacking shipping since November in a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The Huthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.

The US has accused Iran of abetting Huthi attacks on commercial ships by providing drones, missiles and tactical intelligence — a charge Tehran has denied.

The US military said on Thursday it had “seized advanced conventional weapons and other lethal aid originating in Iran and bound to Huthi-controlled areas of Yemen from a vessel in the Arabian Sea” on January 28.

The shipment contained more than 200 packages loaded with missile components, explosives and other devices, US Central Command said on social media.

“This is yet another example of Iran’s malign activity in the region,” CENTCOM chief Michael Erik Kurilla was quoted as saying.

“Their continued supply of advanced conventional weapons to the Huthis… continues to undermine the safety of international shipping and the free flow of commerce,” he added.

Even before the Red Sea strikes, the United States had raided Yemen-bound weapons shipments it says originate from Iran.

On January 16, it announced the first seizure of Iran-supplied weapons to the Huthis since their attacks started.

CENTCOM said US naval forces boarded a boat heading for Yemen and seized Iranian-made missile components and other weaponry in an operation in which two commandos went missing.

The weapon seizures come on top of a series of US strikes on Huthi-held areas of Yemen that are intended to deter further attacks.

On Thursday, the US military said it had struck more drones and missiles that had been ready to be launched against ships in the Red Sea.

The raids occurred on Wednesday between 1:00 pm and 7:30 pm (1000 GMT and 1630 GMT), CENTCOM said.

US “forces successfully conducted four self-defence strikes against seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, three mobile unmanned aerial vehicles, and one explosive unmanned surface vessel,” it said.

The Huthi-run Saba news agency reported several strikes on the Red Sea coastal province of Hodeida.

In an earlier statement on Wednesday, CENTCOM said an anti-ship ballistic missile was launched from Huthi-controlled areas into the Gulf of Aden, adding that there were no reports of casualties or damage from ships in the area.

In a speech on Thursday, the leader of the Yemeni rebels, Abdul Malik al-Huthi, accused the United States of launching around 40 strikes this week, most of them on Hodeida.

He said such retaliatory attacks would fail to deter his forces from striking vessels if a ceasefire in Gaza is not reached.

He also warned the European Union against being drawn into the confrontation after member states last month gave initial backing to a naval mission to protect ships from attacks.

“European countries should not listen to the Americans or the British, and should not involve themselves in matters that do not concern them or affect them,” the Huthi leader said.



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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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