The US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) warned merchant ships of the dangers of mines set by Iranian-backed Yemeni rebel Houthis in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait near Yemen’s Mokha port entrance. This danger was first revealed by DEBKAfile in an exclusive report on Feb. 4.
ONI added that attacks on ships in the strait, especially commercial ones, will trigger the involvement of other parties, pointing out that the US Navy will deploy all the needed efforts to protect the freedom of ships. Bab el-Mandeb, which is 25 kilometers wide, is a very important and crowded waterway for global navigation, through which merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden sail to the Red Sea, and then to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea. Day by day, more than 60 commercial ships and 3.3 million barrels of oil a day cross the strait.
As DEBKAfile reported at the time, Houthis were ordered last month by their Iranian masters to attack Bab al-Mandeb, targeting a Saudi frigate and an Emirati relief ship, as well as a US Navy patrol vessel in 2016.
DEBKAfile was first to report that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were training the Yemeni rebels in the use of sea mines provided by them. This form of warfare first appeared in 1984, when Libya strewed them in the Red Sea and Suez Canal. They blew up at least 18 ships including tankers transporting oil from the Persian Gulf through the Red Sea.