U.S. alarmed by strike on ship delivering wheat to Yemen

Washington | Reuters — The United States said on Friday it was “alarmed” by a Houthi missile strike on a Turkish vessel carrying wheat to Yemen this month and urged the Shi’ite group to work with the United Nations to alleviate Yemenis’ suffering.

The Turkish-flagged Ince Inebolu bulk carrier was damaged by an explosion on May 10, 110 km off the Red Sea port of Salif where it was due to deliver a 50,000-ton cargo of Russian wheat.

The White House said in a statement the U.S. was alarmed by the strike and cited reports that the Houthis attempted another attack against an oil tanker in the Red Sea.

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“This proves yet again that missile proliferation in Yemen is a real threat to all countries and underscores the need to fully enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216” calling for an end to violence in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Sunni Muslim allies have been fighting in Yemen for three years against the Houthis, a Shi’ite group that controls much of North Yemen including the capital Sanaa, and drove a Saudi-backed government into exile in 2014.

The Houthis, who are aligned with the Middle East’s pre-eminent Shi’ite power Iran, have fired missiles into Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition has carried out a campaign of thousands of air strikes and restricted imports into Yemen, worsening what the United Nations says is potentially the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

“Areas under the Houthi control are suffering,” the White House said. “The Houthis should engage meaningfully with the United Nations Special Envoy in order to provide a better future for all Yemenis.”

The worsening situation prompted the international shipping industry in January to issue guidance to mariners of the multiple threats including missiles, sea mines and water-borne improvised explosives devices.

The Turkish bulk ship’s owner, Ince Shipping Group, said in an emailed statement to Reuters that the vessel had been “hit by an unidentified missile while she was waiting for coalition forces” to give clearance to proceed to the port.

— Reporting for Reuters by Doina Chiacu.

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