Monday May 1, 2023
Kalizma, a yacht that once belonged to Elizabeth Taylor, is moored near London in August 1968.Frank Coldwell /Syndication nternational/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
A Yemeni coastguard on the lookout for arms smuggling was shot dead by security guards aboard a private yacht in an exchange of fire Friday, a maritime security company said.
Britain-based Ambrey said the vessel was a Cook Islands-flagged yacht that had departed the Omani port of Salalah before entering Yemeni waters.
United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides security alerts for the shipping trade, said the vessel was fired on in the Gulf of Aden at 0300 GMT.
The agency’s website said three boats carrying three to four people each carried out the “attack” before later downgrading the event, 18 nautical miles south of Nishtun, to an “incident”.
Authorities confirmed it as “government agency activity”, UKMTO added, without elaborating. Nishtun is a port in the southeastern province of Mahra that is controlled by the Yemeni government and allied Saudi-led troops.
The yacht’s three-man security team reportedly shot approximately 150 rounds “in return fire,” according to Amber.
“Multiple reports have confirmed the death of one Yemeni personnel member,” Amber said in a statement, attributing “the death to the yacht’s armed security team.”
A Yemeni security official confirmed the death to AFP, saying that coastguards aboard an unflagged vessel had approached the yacht because they wrongly assumed it was carrying a weapons shipment.
Ambrey said all personnel onboard the yacht were safe. It reported damage to passenger cabins and superstructure sustained by small arms fire.
Previous incidents have been blamed on Somali pirates but international security operations have reduced pirate attacks in recent years.
Pirate attacks fell to their lowest level in nearly three decades in 2021, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
The Gulf of Aden, previously known as Africa’s piracy hotspot, has been eclipsed in recent years by the Gulf of Guinea off the continent’s west coast.
However, incidents continue off Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country, which has been engulfed by conflict since 2015, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.
In January last year, an Emirati-flagged vessel was seized in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who released what they said were pictures of military equipment on board.
In February this year, the US Navy displayed Iranian-made ballistic missile components and anti-tank missiles that it said were seized by Britain’s Royal Navy from a vessel off Oman bound for the Huthi rebels. Tehran dismissed the haul as a “fake”.
In January, the US Navy said it had seized more than 2,000 assault rifles smuggled on a fishing boat along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen.