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Houthi Underwater Mines in Bab al-Mandeb Threaten International Navigation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US naval ship at Bab al-Mandab. (AFP)

Riyadh – US Office of Naval Intelligence warned merchant ships traveling between Yemen’s Bab al Mandeb Strait of aquatic mines, while the Yemeni army confirmed it will act quickly to clear the areas of the mines placed by Houthis forces to maintain, local, regional and international navigation.

A report issued by the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) warned merchant ships from the dangers of mines that were set by Houthis and militias allied to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Bab al-Mandeb near the Mokha port entrance.

ONI stated that the attacks on ships in the strait, especially commercial ones, will trigger the involvement of other parties, pointing out that the US Navy will employ all needed efforts to protect the freedom of ships.

Lieutenant Mohsen Khasroof said that these mines are threatening navigation and locals all over the west coast who rely on fishing for their livelihood.

He explained that this is a great responsibility for the Yemeni National Army and coalition forces to clear the area. He pointed out that the army needs a lot of technical help and devices to uncover the aquatic mines.

Khasrouf believes that the insurgents mined the area fearing the coalition might execute an airdrop there, which he stressed did not happen.

The lieutenant said that Makha port is an important outlet for besieged Taiz and other nearby Yemeni governorates. He added that it is crucial to demine the coast, remarking it is a patriotic and humanitarian responsibility.

ONI noted that the closure of this waterway would lead to substantial increases in total energy costs and global oil prices.

Bab el-Mandeb is 25 kilometers wide and a very important waterway for global navigation through which merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden sail to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and then the Mediterranean Sea.

It is one of the most crowded waterways for oil transportation in the Middle East and other regions, with over 60 commercial ships that cross the strait and more than 3.3 million oil bpd.

Houthis carried out several attacks near Bab al-Mandeb, the last one in February when they targeted a Saudi frigate and an Emirati relief ship. They have also targeted a US navy patrol vessel in October 2016, but the attack was not successful.

Khasroof considered the statement of commander of Quds Force Qasem Soleimani’s about Bab el-Mandeb being under Shi’ite control a clear condemnation of Iran.