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Rubymar cargo ship attacked by Houthis has sunk, Yemeni government says

FILE PHOTO: The cargo ship Rubymar is seen in the Black Sea off Kilyos near Istanbul, November 2, 2022. REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Calsikan

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) -The Rubymar cargo ship, attacked last month, has sunk in the southern Red Sea, Yemen’s internationally recognised government said in a statement on Saturday.

If verified, it would be the first vessel lost since Houthi militants began targeting commercial shipping in November.

The government statement said the ship sunk on Friday night and warned of an “environmental catastrophe”.

The ship was carrying more than 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it came under attack, the U.S. military’s Central Command previously said.

Yemen’s Houthi militants have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea region since mid-November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

On Monday, a Yemeni government team visited the Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, UK-owned cargo ship, and said it was partially submerged and could sink within a couple of days.

The U.S. military previously said the attack had significantly damaged the freighter and caused an 18-mile (29-km) oil slick.

The United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the sinking on Saturday.

MOKHA ATTACK

In two separate reports on Saturday the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said it had received a report of a ship being attacked 15 nautical miles west of Yemen’s port of Mokha.

“The crew took the vessel to anchor and were evacuated by military authorities,” the UKMTO said in an advisory note.

Separately, the UKMTO reported a ship sinking.

Neither report named the Rubymar though both incidents occurred in the vicinity of where the Rubymar was last seen.

Houthi attacks have prompted shipping firms to divert vessels on to the longer, more expensive route around southern Africa. They have also stoked fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread, destabilising the wider Middle East.

The United States and Britain began striking Houthi targets in Yemen in January in retaliation for the attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government is based in the southern port of Aden while the Houthis control much of the north and other large centres.

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