x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 August 2017

Houthi rebels target coalition warship at Mokha

The Saudi-led coalition on Saturday thwarted another attempt by Yemeni rebels to attack Mokha port using a remote-controlled boat loaded with explosives.

The attack on the Red Sea port was carried out in the early hours of Saturday, coalition spokesman Colonel Turki Al Maliki said.

"The coalition forces detected the boat three miles off the port, while it was sailing at 39 knots," Col Al Maliki said. It was "intercepted by the coalition defence and diverted from its initial trajectory".

The Houthi-controlled Saba news agency said the target of the attack was a warship belonging to the coalition inside the port, and claimed it had been successful.

The rebels carried out a similar attack on Mokha on July 29, when a remote-controlled boat packed with explosives detonated after crashing into a pier near a group of ships. The coalition said the explosion caused no injuries or damage.

That attack came a little over a month after the Iran-backed rebels fired a missile at an Emirati ship carrying medical aid as it was leaving Mokha, injuring a crew member. 

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Repeated rebel attacks near Mokha have raised concerns about the safety of shipping in the narrow Bab Al Mandeb waterway at the entrance to the Red Sea, a major choke point in the world oil trade.

The port was under Houthi control until earlier this year, when pro-government forces backed by the coalition launched an operation to clear the rebels from Yemen's Red Sea coast. The key port of Hodeidah to north remains in rebel hands.

After more than two years of civil war, the Iran-backed rebels and their allies hold large areas of northern Yemen and the capital, Sanaa. Forces loyal to president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi control much of the south, including the port city of Aden where his government is temporarily based.

The coalition intervened in the war on behalf of Mr Hadi's government in March 2015.

The conflict has already killed more than 10,000 and displaced millions. Facing famine and with about 500,000 cholera cases reported in the country since the worst outbreak in decades started in April, the country is desperately in need of food and medical aid.

With reporting from Reuters