Robert HARNEIS –TDO- (FRANCE)- Houthi rebels have captureda tug and its tow, off the coast of Hodeidah, Yemen, according to a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government. 

“At 2300 hours on Sunday, the vessel was hijacked while sailing through the southern Red Sea, and it came under armed robbery by two boats carrying terrorists belonging to the Houthi militia,” Saudi spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said at a press conference. “The Houthis have a criminal precedent undermining the security of the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and the southern Red Sea with their acts of kidnapping and piracy."

Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi confirmed in a Twitter post that "Yemeni waters are protected" through the efforts of Houthi maritime forces. "There is a case of suspicion and the Yemen Coast Guard is doing its job," he said. "We assure everyone that they need not worry about the crewmembers."

Houthi media reports indicate that the tug has been brought to the Houthi-controlled seaport of Salif, just north of Hodeidah. The hijacked vessel, identified by Saudi sources as the offshore tug Rabigh 3, is flagged and owned in Saudi Arabia. 

Though reports differ, Al Jazeera indicates that Rabigh 3 had a tow - a South Korean-owned drill rig - which was also captured. 

Since the Yemeni civil war began in 2014, Houthi forces have conducted a series of attacks on Saudi merchant and military shipping using multiple technical means, including naval mines, missiles and remote-controlled bomb boats. In 2017, a Houthi-operated bomb boat struck and damaged the Saudi frigate Al-Madinah, killing two crewmembers and injuring three others. Saudi-led forces claim to have intercepted multiple similar bomb boats over the years since, including two in October 2018 which were allegedly aimed at the port of Jizan. Houthi forces have claimed that they have conducted additional successful attacks, though Saudi reports differ.

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