Close Call for 25 Indians as Houthi Drone Hits Oil Tanker in Red Sea

An oil tanker named MV Saibaba, owned by Gabon and carrying 25 Indian nationals, was struck by a drone fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, as confirmed by the Indian Navy on Saturday. Contrary to earlier reports by the US Central Command (CENTCOM) stating it as an “Indian-flagged crude oil tanker,” the Indian Navy clarified that MV Saibaba was not under the Indian flag.

Fortunately, there were no reported injuries following the drone attack, which prompted a response from the US warship Laboon after receiving a distress call. Another vessel, MV Blaamanen, a Norwegian-flagged chemical/oil tanker, also reported a near miss from a Houthi drone, with no injuries or damage.

CENTCOM highlighted that this incident marked the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17. The US military successfully intercepted four drones aimed at a US destroyer in the southern Red Sea, launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.

Additionally, two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea, but no ships were reported to be impacted. This event comes on the heels of a drone striking an Israel-affiliated merchant vessel off the Gujarat coast, allegedly fired from Iran, carrying 20 Indian crew members and transporting crude oil.

The Iran-backed Houthis, in control of much of Yemen, claim these actions are responses to Israel’s conflict in Gaza, disrupting world trade through attacks on ships in the Bab al-Mandab Strait. The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency reported an uncrewed aerial system exploding near a vessel in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, southwest of Saleef, Yemen.

Amidst these incidents, the US initiated Operation Prosperity Guardian, engaging more than a dozen countries in joint patrols in Red Sea waters near Yemen, addressing the escalating challenges posed by Houthi attacks on commercial shipping.

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