Yemen's Houthi Rebels Claim "Direct Hit" on an "American" Ship

But early assessments suggest that the vessel was neither hit, nor American

Houthi missiles on parade
File image courtesy Houthi Military Media

Published Jan 31, 2024 5:21 PM by The Maritime Executive


[Updated] Yemen's Houthi rebels have claimed an attack on another "American merchant ship" and asserted that the munitions "directly hit the vessel." The group made the claim after U.S. Central Command reported shooting down a Houthi antiship missile over the Red Sea. 

According to Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree, the group targeted a vessel named Koi. There are several vessels of that name in international databases; only one of them, a Liberian-flagged container ship, is currently located near Yemen. 

Saree's claim could not be immediately confirmed, and Houthi forces have made inaccurate assertions about their success rate in the past. One shipping intelligence source told TME that the claim does not appear to be true. [Updated] On Thursday, U.S. Central Command confirmed that the "missiles impacted in the water without hitting the ship."

The vessel does not have any clear ties to the United States, though she is connected to the UK by virtue of her commercial manager, London-based Oceonix Services. Oceonix is also the manager of the Marlin Luanda, the product tanker that was hit by a Houthi missile and caught fire last week. 

Western analysts and governments believe that Iran is closely involved in Houthi attacks, from target selection to the supply of missile components. While the Houthis' approach may be scattershot, Iranian operatives understand how to discern a ship's underlying commercial ties, according to Dr. Ian Ralby of IR Consilium. 

"They've proven themselves over the years to be very competent in identifying a specific entity attached to a vessel and targeting that entity," said Ralby in congressional testimony earlier this week.