Middle East

Yemen conflict: UAE says Houthis attacked civilian ship

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HSV-2 Swift catamaran undergoing testing by the US Navy in 2004 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The HSV-2 Swift - seen here undergoing testing by the US Navy - is a logistics vessel

The United Arab Emirates says Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked a civilian ship in the Red Sea over the weekend.

The high-speed catamaran, carrying aid, wounded Yemenis and passengers, was passing through the Bab al-Mandab strait when it came under fire, a foreign ministry statement said.

It denounced the incident as "an act of terrorism".

The UAE is part of a coalition that has fought the Houthis and imposed a naval blockade on Yemen since March 2015.

The United Nations estimates that at least 3,800 civilians have been killed and 6,700 others injured in the fighting, while three million others have been displaced.

The UAE foreign ministry identified the ship attacked early on Saturday as an Australian-built HSV-2 Swift logistics catamaran, which it said was leased from the Abu Dhabi-based National Marine Dredging Company and "did not have any military capacity".

"The targeting of the civilian ship in an international channel has serious implications for freedom of navigation, and is an act of terror," it warned.

The Houthis said at the time that their forces had fired a missile that had destroyed a UAE military vessel that was approaching the Red Sea port of Mocha.

A pro-rebel TV channel broadcast a night-time video appearing to show an explosion and a burning ship.

The UN Security Council also condemned the attack and said that it took threats to shipping around Bab al-Mandab "extremely seriously".

The 20km-wide (12-mile) strait links the Suez Canal and the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Vessels carrying millions of barrels of oil pass through it every day.

The Security Council also called for necessary steps to be taken to de-escalate the situation, and reiterated their support for UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's efforts to find a political solution to the conflict.

Peace talks in Kuwait between the warring parties were suspended in early August.

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