March 7, 2024 | Flash Brief

Three Killed by Houthis in Gulf of Aden

March 7, 2024 | Flash Brief

Three Killed by Houthis in Gulf of Aden

Latest Developments

Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen killed three sailors on March 6 after a missile launched by the group hit a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile at the Liberian-owned cargo vessel MV True Confidence, causing a fire as it was traveling more than 50 miles south of the Yemeni port of Aden. The missile killed two Filipino nationals and one Vietnamese national who were part of the ship’s multinational crew, claiming the first casualties in the group’s assault on international commercial shipping in the region since the Houthis began their attacks in November. The strike also injured four other crewmembers, three of them critically.

The Indian Navy evacuated all the ship’s occupants, including 20 crew members and three armed guards, to a hospital in Djibouti. The damaged vessel remains drifting in the water as its owners make plans to salvage it. According to CENTCOM, the missile was the fifth anti-ship ballistic missile launched by the Houthis over two days, one of which the USS Carney intercepted. One of the other missiles struck the Swiss-owned MV MSC Sky II on March 5, not injuring anyone but causing a fire that the Indian Navy extinguished.

Expert Analysis

“The killing of the Filipino and Vietnamese civilians by the Iran-backed Houthis underscores the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran and its network of terror proxies are a global problem that demands a more forceful, comprehensive, and unified international response.” Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“This incident again demonstrates the random nature of Houthi attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea, killing sailors from Vietnam and the Philippines and damaging a Liberian vessel. The Houthis could not sustain these attacks without consistent support from Iran. It is time to hold the Iranian supply chain accountable, with both sanctions and kinetic strikes.” RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology

“Years of failing to interdict Iranian smuggling of advanced weapons to the Houthis have left the Iran-backed terror group with significant stockpiles of anti-ship weapons. Those weapons are now being used to disrupt global shipping and kill civilians.” Ryan Brobst, FDD Senior Research Analyst

Sinking of the Rubymar

Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait have continued, reportedly aided by Iranian intelligence assets in the region. While most Houthi attacks have so far either missed their targets or caused minor damage, the attack on the True Confidence comes weeks after the Houthis struck the UK-owned cargo ship MV Rubymar with two ballistic missiles on February 18. The missiles caused extensive damage to the Rubymar and required nearby vessels to rescue 24 members of its crew. The Rubymar was left in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait until completely sinking on March 2, causing an environmental hazard and navigational risk to other vessels.

Limited U.S. Response

U.S. forces in the region have been shooting down and conducting limited self-defense strikes against Houthi anti-ship missiles and drones preparing for launch from Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen. The United States and the United Kingdom have also conducted four joint strikes on Houthi military capabilities since January 11. However, the attacks have not deterred Houthi aggression. Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said on March 5 that the U.S. approach would be to continue working with “international partners and allies to disrupt and degrade Houthi capabilities, but most importantly, to work with international shipping companies and countries around the world to help ensure that they can safely transit that waterway.”

Houthis Sink First Commercial Ship in Red Sea,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Conducts Cyberattack Against Iranian Spy Ship Helping Houthis,” FDD Flash Brief

Houthis Target Israel and International Shipping,” FDD Flash Brief


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