Saudi-led Coalition Says Yemen's Armed Houthis Seize 'Suspect Vessel' in Red Sea

Saudi-led Coalition Says Yemen's Armed Houthis Seize 'Suspect Vessel' in Red Sea

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen said on Monday the Houthis had seized a vessel towing a South Korean drilling rig at the southern end of the Red Sea.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said in a statement carried by Saudi state media that the vessel was seized late on Sunday by armed Houthis. He did not say how many crew members were on board the ship.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior Houthi official later told Reuters the group's forces had seized a "suspect vessel" in the Red Sea and that the crew were being treated well.

"Yemeni coast guards ... are checking to see whether (the ship) belongs to the countries of aggression or to South Korea, in which case it will be released after completing legal procedures," he said.

The Houthis' Al-Masirah TV said three ships had been seized near Uqban island, including one belong to Saudi Arabia, and taken to the Yemeni port of Salif. It did not identify the other vessels.

The coalition spokesman said the seizure of the ship was a "terrorist operation" that posed a threat to the freedom of international navigation and world trade.

The Saudi-led alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis after the group ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital Sanaa.

Houthi forces have been driven away from most of Yemen's coast over the course of the conflict but still hold Hodeidah, the country's biggest Red Sea port and base of the group's navy.

The Houthis have in the past targeted vessels off Yemen, which lies on one side of the Bab al-Mandeb strait at the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the world's most heavily travelled oil tanker routes.