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Houthi missiles strike British bulk carrier in Red Sea, forcing crew to abandon ship

The British bulk grain carrier Rubymar (pictured here in the Black Sea in 2022) was badly damaged by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels Monday, forcing the crew to abandon ship. The crew is safe and the 32,000 ton vessel is at anchor pending salvage operations. Photo by Tolga Bozoglu/EPA-EFE
The British bulk grain carrier Rubymar (pictured here in the Black Sea in 2022) was badly damaged by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels Monday, forcing the crew to abandon ship. The crew is safe and the 32,000 ton vessel is at anchor pending salvage operations. Photo by Tolga Bozoglu/EPA-EFE

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The crew of a British bulk carrier in the Red Sea off Yemen were forced to abandon ship Monday after the vessel was struck by two missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The dawn missile strikes badly damaged the engine room of the 32,000 ton Rubymar as it was transiting the 20-mile-wide Bab al-Mandab Strait and with doubts whether it would remain afloat the decision to abandon ship was made to ensure the safety of the crew.

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The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack on the vessel saying that as a result of the extensive damage the ship suffered it was "now at risk of potentially sinking in the Gulf of Aden."

"During the operation, we made sure that the ship's crew exited safely," Houthi spokesman Ameen Hayyan claimed in a post on X.

The crew was later taken aboard vessels of the U.S.-led Red Sea Coalition set up to protect international shipping which rushed to the scene following the attack 35 miles south of the Yemeni port city of Al Mukha, the Royal Navy's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said in an attack bulletin.

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"Vessel at anchor and all crew are safe. Military authorities remain on scene to provide assistance," the Royal Navy's group said.

According to shipping tracking services the Rubymar departed the United Arab Emirates on Feb. 11 bound for Bulgaria.

The attacks after the United States carried out five strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday, part of ongoing effort to degrade the militia's ability to target international shipping transiting the Red Sea.

U.S. Central Command said in statement that the airstrikes, between 3 and 8 p.m. local time, hit three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, one underwater drone and one maritime drone.

"CENTCOM identified the anti-ship cruise missiles, unmanned underwater vessel and the unmanned surface vessel in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region," the statement read.

The Houthis have launched dozens of attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea since announcing in November its intention to show solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza by targeting Israeli shipping and any vessel bound for Israeli ports.

The group has since expanded that mandate, adding American and British shipping to its list of legitimate targets after the allies embarked on large-scale airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Jan. 11.

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