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Yemen fighters seize vessel in latest escalation

Ansar Allah fighters riding on the back of a truck in the Red Sea city of Hodeida. — Reuters file photo
Ansar Allah fighters riding on the back of a truck in the Red Sea city of Hodeida. — Reuters file photo

RIYADH: Yemeni fighters have seized an Emirati-flagged vessel in the Red Sea, the fighters and a Saudi-led coalition said on Monday, giving contrasting explanations for the latest escalation in a seven-year war.

The coalition, fighting in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, said the vessel was carrying medical supplies but the fighters said they seized “a military cargo ship with military equipment”.

The coalition has been fighting for nearly seven years in support of Yemen’s government against the Ansar Allah, in a conflict that has displaced millions and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

“The militia must promptly release the ship, or the coalition forces will undertake all necessary measures and procedures to handle this violation, including the use of force if necessary,” coalition spokesman Turki al Malki said.

In a statement cited by the official Saudi Press Agency, he said the vessel was travelling from Yemen’s Socotra island, off the country’s south coast.

It was returning to the Saudi city of Jazan carrying medical supplies after finishing a mission to set up a field hospital on the island, Malki said.

“The boat named Rawabi, bearing the flag of the United Arab Emirates, was pirated and kidnapped at 23:57 (2057 GMT) on Sunday while off Hodeida province,” he said.

Malki was unable to confirm the number of people on board when contacted. There was no immediate comment from the United Arab Emirates. — AFP

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