Yemen’s Houthi rebels attack a US-owned ship in the Gulf of Aden with bomb-carrying drone

JERUSALEM (AP) — A U.S.-owned ship in the Gulf of Aden came under attack Wednesday from a bomb-carrying drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, officials said.

The attack on the Genco Picardy represented the second in recent days targeting vessels directly linked to America after U.S.-led strikes targeting the Houthis. It also underlined the risks to shipping in the vital waterway amid Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The attack happened some 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of Aden, where the drone smashed into the vessel, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, an arm of the British navy that oversees Mideast waterways.

The ship’s captain reported there was fire onboard that had been extinguished, it said. “Vessel and crew are safe and proceeding to next port of call,” it added.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a military spokesman for the Houthis, identified the ship attacked as the bulk carrier Genco Picardy. Satellite-tracking data had put that vessel off Saudi Arabia in recent days as it was bound for India.

The Houthis “confirm that a response to the American and British attacks is inevitably coming, and that any new attack will not remain without response and punishment,” Saree said in a prerecorded video address.

Ship-ownership data listed the Genco Picardy’s owner as New York City-based Genco Shipping & Trading Ltd., which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

In a statement, Genco acknowledged the attack and said the vessel was carrying a load of phosphate rock.

“All seafarers aboard the vessel are confirmed to be uninjured,” the company said. “An initial inspection by the crew indicates that damage to the vessel’s gangway is limited, and the vessel has remained stable and underway on a course out of the area.”

The Houthis say the attacks are aimed at backing Hamas and Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s war on Hamas. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade.

The attacks have now expanded to hitting U.S.-linked vessels. On Monday, the Houthis hit the U.S.-owned Gibraltar Eagle.

The U.S. and its allies have carried out three rounds of airstrikes targeting Houthi sites over the last week, to try to deter the militants. However, the Houthis have launched several attacks in the time since, further imperiling ships traveling on a crucial trade route for cargo and energy shipments moving from Asia and the Middle East toward Europe.

The Houthi attacks are one part of the wider tensions gripping the region. Iran staged airstrikes late Monday in Iraq, killing at least four people. The U.K.’s ambassador to Iraq, Stephen Hitchen, said Wednesday that a British national, Karam Mikhael, was among the civilians killed there.

Meanwhile, Iran has been edging closer to acknowledging its own role in attacking a vessel in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka and India back on Jan. 4. Then, the chemical tanker Pacific Gold was struck by what the U.S. Navy called “an Iranian one-way attack” drone, causing some damage to the vessel but no injuries.

On Wednesday, the Lebanese broadcaster Al-Mayadeen reported Iran’s Revolutionary Guard carried out that attack, as well as another one not independently confirmed on a separate vessel. Al-Mayadeen is a channel politically affiliated with Hezbollah that has previously announced other Iran-linked attacks in the region.

The Pacific Gold is managed by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, a company that is ultimately controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. Eastern Pacific previously has been targeted in suspected Iranian attacks.

But Iran potentially acknowledging the Pacific Gold attack comes as Tehran has been trying to lash out without directly targeting either the U.S. or Israel.

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Associated Press writer Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.

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