A view shows Barbados-flagged bulk carrier vessel True Confidence, in Ravenna, Italy, on March 10, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

DUBAI: A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi militants on a ship in the Gulf of Aden caused “fatalities” on Wednesday, two US officials have told The Associated Press.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they didn’t have authorization to speak publicly about the killings on board the True Confidence.

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The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations centre added that the Barbados-flagged vessel was no longer under the command of the crew and that they had abandoned it.

The exact extent of the damage remained unclear. However, it appeared to be serious.

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Yemen’s Houthi militants didn’t immediately claim the attack, though it typically takes them several hours to acknowledge their assaults. They’ve been attacking ships sailing past Yemen since November over Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The bulk carrier was drifting with a fire continuing onboard, ship’s owner and operator said, adding that no information was available on the status of 20 crew members and three armed guards onboard.

But a shipping source said three sailors were missing from the Barbados-flagged bulk carrier and four others were badly burned.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said earlier that it had received a report of an incident 54 nautical miles southwest of Aden, which lies near the entrance to the Red Sea.

A U. defence official said smoke was seen coming from the True Confidence. The official, who also declined to be named, told Reuters a lifeboat had also been seen in the water near the ship.

The Houthi attacks have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa.

The True Confidence is owned by the Liberian-registered company True Confidence Shipping and operated by the Greece-based Third January Maritime, both firms said in their joint statement.

They said the ship had no link to the United States.