Three crew members have been killed in a Houthi missile strike on a bulk carrier, US officials say, the first fatalities reported since Yemen’s Houthis began strikes against shipping in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

US Central Command confirmed late on Wednesday that the death toll had risen to three crew members after the attack on the Barbados-flagged bulk carrier, True Confidence (built in 2011).

British Embassy Sanaa said earlier yesterday that two seafarers were killed in a Houthi missile attack on a Red Sea merchant ship.

“The missile struck the vessel, and the multinational crew reports three fatalities, at least four injuries, of which three are in critical condition, and significant damage to the ship,” reads the US Central Command statement on X (former twitter).

The crew abandoned the ship and coalition warships responded and are assessing the situation.

“This was the sad but inevitable consequence of the Houthis reckless missile launches on international shipping. They must stop. Our deepest condolences are with the families of those who died and those who were injured,” said the Embassy in a short statement.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack of the Barbados-flagged bulk carrier True Confidence in the Gulf of Aden.

The True Confidence is owned by the Liberian-based company True Confidence Shipping and its ship manager/commercial manager is the Greece-based Third January Maritime, which has offices in Piraeus.

The spokesperson for the Yemeni armed forces, Yahya Sare’e, pointed out that the naval forces carried out a targeting operation against the “American ship” True Confidence in the Gulf of Aden, with a number of appropriate naval missiles.

“The strike was accurate, led to a fire breaking out on it. The targeting operation came after the ship’s crew rejected warning messages from the Yemeni naval forces.”

The ship was targeted by the Houthis, who described the vessel as “American”, but White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “it was not a U.S. ship, contrary to what the Houthis claimed.”

“These reckless attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis have not only disrupted global trade and commerce but also taken the lives of international sea – seafarers simply doing their jobs.

“We offer our condolences, obviously, to the families of those who lost their lives and, again, condemn the Houthis for these attacks. 

“And we will call on governments around the world to do the same and join us in bringing to a halt these appalling attacks,” Jean-Pierre continued.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said yesterday it had received a report of an incident 54 nautical miles southwest of Aden, adding that the vessel had been abandoned by the crew and was “no longer under command.”

“A merchant ship has been hit and has suffered damage. Coalition forces are supporting the vessel and the crew,” UKMTO commented.