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Yemen rebels claim attack on Norway-flagged tanker: spokesman

By AFP - Dec 13,2023 - Last updated at Dec 13,2023

In this 2008 image released by the US Navy Visual News Service the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason steams through the Atlantic Ocean. A missile fired by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels struck a Norwegian-flagged tanker off Yemen on Monday (AFP photo)

DUBAI/WASHINGTON — Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a missile strike on a Norwegian-flagged tanker a day earlier off Yemen's coast in the Red Sea.

"The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a qualitative military operation against the Norwegian ship Strinda, which was loaded with oil" bound for Israel, military spokesman Yahya Saree said.

The Strinda "reported damage causing a fire on-board, but no casualties at this time", CENTCOM said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, adding that a US Navy destroyer had heard the ship's mayday call and was giving assistance.

The night-time attack occurred as the chemical tanker passed through the Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait between Yemen and northeast Africa. The strait leads to the Red Sea, a key route toward the Suez Canal.

The Houthis, who control much of Yemen and are part of an "axis of resistance" arrayed against Israel, have launched a series of drones and missiles since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza more than two months ago.

In a statement posted on Saturday on social media, the Houthis said they “will prevent the passage of ships heading to the Zionist entity” if food and medicine are not allowed into besieged, Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Regardless of which flag ships sail under or the nationality of their owners or operators, Israel-bound vessels “will become a legitimate target for our armed forces”, the statement said.

US and French warships patrolling the Red Sea have shot down Houthi missiles and drones several times since the militants began the attacks.

A French frigate shot down two drones over the weekend using short- to medium-range surface-to-air missiles, a military source told AFP, asking not to be named.

A British warship is also part of the coalition efforts to protect shipping.

Yemen has a long coastline along the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea, a strategic waterway to Israel in the north.

In a helicopter assault, the Houthis captured a commercial car carrier, the Galaxy Leader, on November 19 and forced it to the Hodeidah Port in Yemen, where it has remained. The ship was reportedly empty at the time.

Armed attackers seized another vessel, the M/V Central Park, on November 26 off the coast of Yemen but were apprehended when the USS Mason destroyer arrived on the scene.

The USS Mason shot down an air drone last week when the unmanned vehicle was headed near the ship, US officials said. Its intended target was unknown.

The Strinda, a 144 metre tanker, was built in 2006 and was sailing toward the Suez Canal at the time of the attack.

The vessel is owned by Mowinckel Chemical Tankers AS, a company headquartered in Bergen, Norway.

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