The United States is considering designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels a terrorist organization after their militants hijacked an Israel-linked cargo vessel in the Red Sea.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, during a press briefing, said that “in light of… the piracy of a ship in international waters, we have begun a review of potential terrorist designations and we’ll be considering other options together with our allies and partners as well.”
Kirby called on the rebels to “release that ship immediately, as well as the crew, and unconditionally.”
The capture of the Galaxy Leader and its 25 international crew, which took place on Sunday (Nov 19), came days after the Iran-backed Houthis threatened to target Israeli shipping over the Israel-Hamas war.
Houthi rebels release video of hijacking ship
Yemen’s Iran-backed group on Monday (Nov 20) released a chilling video of the seizure of the Galaxy Leader.
The footage, which showed armed men landing on a ship’s deck from a helicopter in the southern Red Sea and seizing it, was released by the movement’s TV channel Al Masirah a day after the Iran-backed group seized the ship.
The vessel’s owner, as per news agency Reuters, on Monday (Nov 20) said that the cargo ship was “illegally boarded by military personnel via a helicopter” on Sunday, Nov 19 and was at present in the Hodeidah port area in Yemen.
“All communications were subsequently lost with the vessel,” the Isle of Man registered Galaxy Maritime Ltd, owner of the pure car carrier Galaxy Leader, said in a statement.
“The company, as a shipping concern, will not be commenting further on the political or geopolitical situation.”
The Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader’s crew comprises nationals from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania, Galaxy Maritime said. The vessel is chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen.
“Owners and managers believe the seizure of this vessel represents a gross violation of freedom of passage for the world fleet and a serious threat to international trade,” Galaxy Maritime said.
It added that the “key concern at this time is the safety and security of the 25 crew members currently being held by the perpetrators of this criminal act”.
(With inputs from agencies)