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UK ‘reserves Right To Respond’ After Oil Tanker Set Alight Off Yemen

The UK government has said Britain and its allies “reserve the right to respond appropriately” after an oil tanker was struck and set alight off coast of Yemen.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed their naval forces carried out an operation targeting what they described as the “British oil tanker Marlin Luanda” in the Gulf of Aden. Shipping data suggests the vessel sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

They used “appropriate naval missiles, the strike was direct”, the Houthi military spokesperson, Yahya Sarea, said in a statement.

Commodities group Trafigura said the vessel was operated on its behalf.

The company, which has offices in Britain, said firefighting equipment on board was being deployed to control the flames and that the safety of the crew was its “foremost priority”.

A Trafigura spokesperson said: “Earlier on 26 January, the Marlin Luanda, a petroleum products tanker vessel operated on behalf of Trafigura, was struck by a missile as it transited the Red Sea.

“Firefighting equipment on board is being deployed to suppress and control the fire caused in one cargo tank on the starboard side. The safety of the crew is our foremost priority.

“We remain in contact with the vessel and are monitoring the situation carefully. Military ships in the region are under way to provide assistance.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “We are aware of reports that the M/V Marlin Luanda, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, has sustained damage from attack in the Gulf of Aden. Current reports suggest no casualties and nearby coalition vessels are on the scene.

“We have been clear that any attacks on commercial shipping are completely unacceptable and that the UK and our allies reserve the right to respond appropriately.”

The tanker was carrying Russian naphtha bought below the price cap in line with G7 sanctions, a Trafigura spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the vessel Free Spirit, chartered by Vitol to carry crude oil, U-turned before reaching the Gulf of Aden shortly after the attack on the Marlin Luanda, according to data from LSEG.

The Houthis have repeatedly launched attacks on ships in the Red Sea since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, endangering shipping on a key route for global trade.

Alongside numerous airstrikes on key Houthi targets, the UK and US are also targeting key figures in the Iran-backed militant group with sanctions.

A second series of UK and US airstrikes, carried out at the start of the week, appears to have done little to deter Houthi action.

Earlier on Friday, a spokesperson for the prime minister said: “We continue to call on [the Houthis] to step back from such action. We’re clear that this is illegal and unacceptable.”

The foreign secretary, David Cameron, is finishing a trip to the Middle East, in a diplomatic bid to reduce tensions as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues.

PA Media contributed to this report

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