Houthis vow to target merchant ships in Indian Ocean

(WASHINGTON) — The Houthi rebel group on Thursday announced that it plans to attack ships in the Indian Ocean as they travel toward the Cape of Good Hope, USNI News reported.

Two Houthi spokesmen – Brig. Gen. Yahya Sare’e and Mohammed Abdulsalam – each took to X to post that the Houthis will now target ships linked to Israel traveling in the Indian Ocean on the way to the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of South Africa. Commercial vessels have been traversing around the Cape of Good Hope instead of going through the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea due to Houthi attacks on ships.

A containership passes through the Suez Canal. Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea have prompted vessels to sail instead around the Cape of Good Hope. UNCTAD/Shutterstock photo

The Houthis say they are targeting ships linked to Israel, although they have also expanded to include American and British ships in retaliation for joint strikes conducted by the two countries. While statements by Sare’e and Abdulsalam both said the Houthis would target ships linked to Israel in the Indian Ocean, it’s likely that American and British ships will also come under fire.

Despite the Houthi claims, Pentagon officials have said the group is not just targeting Israeli, American or British ships.

“They are putting at risk 12 to 15 percent of the world’s commerce that flows through (the Red Sea). That doesn’t just impact the United States,” Deputy Pentagon Secretary Sabrina Singh said. “It doesn’t just impact Israel. That affects the entire world, including the people in Yemen.”

The Houthis do have capabilities to shoot into the Indian Ocean, depending on where they launch from in Yemen and where the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden come together, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

By Professional Mariner Staff