UAE says Houthi attack on civilian ship was an ‘act of terrorism’

The ship was targeted by Houthi militia near the Bab al-Mandab strait off Yemen’s southern coast

The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday Yemeni Houthi forces had attacked a UAE vessel in a strategic Red Sea shipping lane off the coast of Yemen at the weekend and called the incident an “act of terrorism.”

Hundreds of Emirati soldiers in a Saudi-led coalition have been fighting Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthis, who control the capital, besides training Yemeni troops in the port of Aden to help rebuild a state loyal to exiled president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The vessel, an Australian-built high speed logistics catamaran under lease to the United Arab Emirates military, was attacked by Houthi fighters near the Bab al-Mandab strait off Yemen’s southern coast on Saturday. The coalition rescued its civilian passengers. No crew were hurt.

Read more: Saudi-led forces rescue passengers from vessel off Yemen

“The targeting of the civilian ship in an international channel has serious implications for freedom of navigation, and is an act of terror,” the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency WAM, without elaborating.

The Houthis said their forces had fired a missile that had destroyed a UAE military vessel that was advancing towards the Red Sea port of Al-Mokha.

The UN on Wednesday condemned the attack on the vessel and said it took threats to shipping around Bab al-Mandeb “extremely seriously”.

The Security Council stressed the need for exercise of freedom of navigation in and around the strait.

In 2013, more than 3.4 million barrels of oil passed through the 20-km- (12-mile-) wide Bab al-Mandab each day, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says.