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Yemeni rebels threaten Red Sea shipping

12 January 2018

A senior leader in Yemen’s Ansar Allah (Houthis) group threatened on 8 January to attack commercial shipping in the Red Sea, while the Saudi-led coalition announced it had thwarted an attempt to attack a tanker with an unmanned boat bomb.

The unmanned boat bomb is detailed during a 12 December 2017 US presentation on Iranian assistance to Ansar Allah. (US Department of Defense)The unmanned boat bomb is detailed during a 12 December 2017 US presentation on Iranian assistance to Ansar Allah. (US Department of Defense)

Saleh al-Samad, the head of the rebel government, told a visiting UN delegation that his group could “turn to strategic options … including cutting off the Red Sea and international navigation” if the coalition continued to threaten Al-Hudaydah, the only major port under its control.

Samad also said his group wants to return to the negotiating table, according to a statement published by the group’s Al-Masirah media outlet.

Ansar Allah’s ability to target shipping was apparently demonstrated shortly before Samad made the threat. An attempt to attack a Saudi oil tanker off Al-Hudaydah with a remote-controlled bomb boat was thwarted on 6 January, coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said in press briefing held four days later.

Ansar Allah did not claim to have carried out an attack of this nature.

Col Maliki added that it had become clear that Al-Hudaydah is a base for operations that threaten shipping in the Red Sea and called on the UN to take control of the port.

An unmanned maritime vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (UMVBIED) was used to attack a Saudi frigate on 30 January 2017 and a second was intercepted heading towards the Saudi port of Jizan in April. The examination of third that was captured in October revealed that its guidance system was made in Iran, according to information released by the United States on 12 December.

Col Maliki also said 87 ballistic missiles and more than 6,600 other types of projectiles had been launched from Yemen into Saudi Arabia since the start of the conflict.

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