Hong Kong-flagged sailing boat attacked in Yemen, report says

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A Hong Kong-flagged sailor was reportedly attacked off the coast of war-torn Yemen on Thursday, although the circumstances of the incident were unclear, officials said.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations Group said the attack took place in Hodeidah, a rival port city that was a flashpoint in Yemen’s year-long civil war. It said the incident was being investigated, without elaborating.

Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, told the Associated Press that the ship involved a 62-foot (19-meter) sailing boat carrying flags from Lakota, Hong Kong. Dryad said the people on board were traveling in international waters and were known to be safe.

It was not immediately clear who owned the ship or how many people were on board at the time of the incident. Satellite-tracking data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by AP shows Lakota, just west of the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea between Eritrea on the African continent and Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula.

The ship was in Djibouti before heading off the coast of Yemen. The ship also did not launch its automatic detection system tracker, which Dried described as “very strange” that the Red Sea is a major international shipping route.

“Several attempts were made to get him to climb,” Dryad said. “Reports indicate he was able to escape.”

The U.S. Navy’s Middle East-based 5th Fleet said it was aware of the attack, but declined to comment immediately.

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels since March 2015, who have long occupied the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as well as Hodeidah. The Houthis, the exiled Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

The incident marked the latest sea-attack in the war. In January, the Houthis seized the Emirati ship Rawabi. The Houthis described the ship as carrying military weapons, while the Saudi-led coalition described it as carrying hospital equipment.

The ship’s Indian crew was released last month after the Houthi and Saudi-led coalition reached a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The fragile ceasefire is still going on.

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