News

EU launches Red Sea mission as US ship attacked twice

By AFP

February 20, 2024 10:43 AM


Representational image

The EU formally launched a naval mission on Monday to protect Red Sea shipping from Yemen's Huthi rebels as attacks by the group forced the crew of one vessel to abandon ship and damaged another.

The Iran-backed Huthis, who control much of war-torn Yemen, have been harassing the vital shipping lane since November in a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.

The European Union aims to have the mission -- called Aspides, Greek for "shield" -- up and running in a "few weeks" with at least four vessels, an official said on Friday.

"Europe will ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, working alongside our international partners," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X.

The United States is already spearheading its own naval coalition in the area and has conducted retaliatory strikes on Huthi targets in Yemen, as has Britain.

The dozens of Huthi attacks have roiled shipping in the Red Sea, forcing some companies to take alternative routes including a two-week detour around the tip of southern Africa.

- 'Reckless attack' -

On Monday evening, the Huthis said they had targeted three vessels in the last 24 hours, including the British-registered Rubymar, the US-owned Sea Champion and the Navis Fortuna which they described as "American."

Earlier, the maritime security firm Ambrey had reported that a Greek-flagged, US-owned bulk carrier was attacked twice in two hours in the gulf, which adjoins the Red Sea.

The bulk carrier reported a "missile attack" before another projectile hit the water just metres (yards) from the ship, Ambrey said.

The ship's master reported "evidence of shrapnel and damage to paintwork" in the second incident, the Royal Navy's UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.

The Sea Champion is a Greek-flagged bulk carrier that was travelling from Argentina to Yemen, multiple tracking sites show.

Meanwhile, the crew of the British-registered, Belize-flagged Rubymar were forced to abandon ship following a Huthi strike.

A UK government spokesperson condemned what they called a "reckless attack" on the bulk carrier and said coalition vessels were already on the scene, Britain's Press Association reported.

The UKMTO reported that the incident took place 35 nautical miles (65 kilometres) south of Mokha on Yemen's Red Sea coast. The location would be towards the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Citing "military authorities", it said the crew had safely "abandoned the vessel" which was left at anchor with military authorities at the site and providing assistance.

The Navis Fortuna was approaching the Bab al-Mandeb Strait on Monday afternoon, Marine Traffic, a ship tracking service, showed.

Late on Monday the UKMTO said it had received a report of an incident 60 nautical miles (110 kilometres) north of Djibouti, also near the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

- 'Impact on the entire world' -

As the attacks continued, Qatar's energy minister called for a ceasefire in Gaza to end the insecurity in the Red Sea, which has disrupted oil deliveries along with other trade.

Saad al-Kaabi, who is also the chief executive of state-owned QatarEnergy, said the "root of the problem" in the Red Sea "is the Israeli invasion of Gaza".

"Hopefully there is a ceasefire soon that will stop that so that the economic impact on the entire world stops," he said.

Separately, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that revenues from the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean, had fallen "40 to 50 percent" so far this year.

The canal, which brought in $8.6 billion in the 2022-23 fiscal year, is a vital source of foreign currency for Cairo, which is suffering from a severe financial crisis.

Italian top diplomat Antonio Tajani confirmed the EU mission's launch during a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, calling it "an important step towards common European defence".

The overall commander of the EU mission will be Greek, while the lead officer in operational control at sea will be Italian.

So far France, Germany, Italy and Belgium have said they plan to contribute ships.

The EU says the mission's mandate -- set initially for one year -- is limited to protecting civilian shipping in the Red Sea and that no attacks will be carried out "on Yemeni soil".

An EU official said there would be "continuous military to military contact" to coordinate actions with the United States and other forces in the region.


AFP


Most Read

  1. Foreigners safe after suicide-bomber targets their van in Karachi Foreigners safe after suicide-bomber targets their van in Karachi
  2. Finance minister rules out further rupee devaluation Finance minister rules out further rupee devaluation
  3. Mehar Bano and Mamya Shajaffar’s bold dance videos invite public's wrath Mehar Bano and Mamya Shajaffar’s bold dance videos invite public's wrath
  4. Iran shoots down several drones as Israel ‘launches’ attacks Iran shoots down several drones as Israel ‘launches’ attacks
  5. Solar panel rate sinks massively in Lahore Solar panel rate sinks massively in Lahore
  6. Woman gives birth to sextuplets in Rawalpindi Woman gives birth to sextuplets in Rawalpindi

Opinion

  1. Insights into the Pakistan Stock Exchange's Recent Record High Triumph
    Insights into the Pakistan Stock Exchange's Recent Record High Triumph

    By Zulfiqar Ali Mir

  2. IMEC to sabotage CPEC
    IMEC to sabotage CPEC

    By Dr Asif Channer

  3. 1947 TO FORM 47
    1947 TO FORM 47

    By Dr Asif Channer

  4. Beijing wants to further highlight industrial sector in its country and take scientific innovation to new heights....
    Beijing wants to further highlight industrial sector in its country and take scientific innovation to new heights....

    By Ali Ramay

  5. Global race: China will reduce its unnecessary expenses
    Global race: China will reduce its unnecessary expenses

    By Ali Ramay

  6. Channer Pir: The Great Saint of Cholistan
    Channer Pir: The Great Saint of Cholistan

    By Dr Asif Channer