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The campaign waged by the Yemen-based Houthi militia against commercial shipping in the Red Sea region has inflicted its first fatalities.

“At approximately 11:30 am (Sanaa time) March 6 an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) was launched from Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist-controlled areas of Yemen toward M/V True Confidence, a Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned bulk carrier, while transiting the Gulf of Aden,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) stated in a press release on 6 March 2024. “The missile struck the vessel, and the multinational crew reports three fatalities, at least four injuries, of which three are in critical condition, and significant damage to the ship.”

CENTCOM added that the crew of True Confidence abandoned the ship and that coalition warships had responded and were assessing the situation.

“This is the fifth ASBM fired by Houthis in the last two days,” CENTCOM stated. “Two of these ASBMs impacted two shipping vessels – M/V MSC Sky II and M/V True Confidence – and one ASBM was shot down by USS Carney [a US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer].”

According to reporting by The Times newspaper in the UK, the ship’s operators said the vessel was struck about 50 nautical miles (92.6 km) southwest of the Yemeni port of Aden. The Times reported that there were 20 crew and three armed guards on board, who included 15 Filipinos, four Vietnamese, two Sri Lankans, an Indian and a Nepali national.

Writing on the X/Twitter social media channel on 6 March, UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron stated, “We condemn the Houthis’ reckless and indiscriminate attacks on global shipping & demand they stop. We will continue to stand up for freedom of navigation and back our words with actions.”

However, the fatalities on True Confidence only served to confirm that, despite numerous attacks by the forces of US CENTCOM, sometimes in conjunction with UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoons operating out of RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus, the Houthis’ offensive capabilities have not been degraded to a significant degree.

Even after the attack on True Confidence, CENTCOM reported that “At approximately 7:14 pm (Sanaa Time) March 6 United States Central Command conducted self-defense strikes against two unmanned aerial vehicles in a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen that presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region.”

The threat of Houthi attacks is forcing international shipping companies to avoid the Red Sea/Suez Canal route and to reroute their vessels around Africa at considerable extra time and expense.

Meanwhile, CENTCOM attacks against Houthis targets in Yemen cannot negate the threat while the Houthis continue to receive further supplies of war materiel from their backers in Iran.

Hostile Houthi action against international shipping in the Red Sea region began November 2023 in response to the Israel Defense Forces’ campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza following Hamas’ terrorist attack on southern Israel on 7 October 2023.

A US CENTCOM-sourced image of MV True Confidence after the ship was struck by a Houthi ASBM in the western Gulf of Aden on 6 March 2024, causing the first fatalities of the Houthis’ campaign against merchant shipping in the Red Sea region. (Photo: US CENTCOM)