On Sunday (24 December), officials from the Indian Navy confirmed that a Gabon-flagged ship, MV Saibaba, which was subjected to a drone attack in the Red Sea, had 25 Indian crew members on board. They further assured that all the crew members are unharmed.
According to Hindustan Times, the Indian Navy further clarified that contrary to the US's previous claim, the vessel was not flying an Indian flag but rather, a flag from Gabon.
The US military previously stated on Sunday that a crude oil tanker flying the Indian flag was one of two vessels targeted by drone strikes from Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Southern Red Sea.
The US Central Command issued a statement indicating that two anti-ship ballistic missiles, launched by the Houthi, were directed towards international shipping routes in the Southern Red Sea, originating from regions of Yemen under Houthi control.
There were no reports of ships being affected by the ballistic missiles.
Simultaneously, during the hours of 3 to 8 pm in Sanaa local time, the USS LABOON (DDG 58) was on patrol in the Southern Red Sea, under the banner of Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG).
The USS LABOON effectively thwarted and neutralized unmanned aerial drones that were launched from areas in Yemen under Houthi control and were heading towards it. CENTCOM confirmed in its post that this incident resulted in no injuries or damage.
Subsequently, around 8 pm as per Sanaa local time, distress signals were received by the US Naval Forces Central Command from two vessels in the Southern Red Sea, suggesting they were being attacked.
“M/V SAIBABA, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker, reported that it was hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported. A Norwegian-flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker also reported a near miss of a Houthi drone at the same time. The USS LABOON (DDG 58) responded to the distress calls from these attacks. These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17,” US Central Command said in an earlier statement.
The seriousness of the situation was highlighted by the US Central Command, stressing that such attacks jeopardise the safety and security of global maritime traffic.
Amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, have escalated their attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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