Last night, U.S. Central Command reported three more incidents in the Red Sea. The guided missile destroyer USS Laboon shot down four attack drones which were apparently aimed at the Laboon, and it responded to distress calls from two commercial vessels. The M/V Blaamanen, a Norwegian-flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker, reported a near-miss of a Houthi one-way attack drone with no injuries or damage reported, according to the Centcom report. A second vessel, the M/V Saibaba, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged (and crewed) crude oil tanker, reported that it was hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported.
The Indian Navy confirmed that all 25 crew members aboard the Saibaba were safe. The Indians also said that the Saibaba is not Indian-flagged but rather Gabon-flagged.
Earlier in the day, a vessel identified as the MV Chem Pluto was hit by a drone off the coast of western India, reported Reuters, citing the British maritime security firm Ambrey. An Indian Navy official told Reuters that it responded to a request for assistance on Saturday morning, Dec. 23, and that the crew were safe.
According to the Times of Israel, Israel believes that the drone originated directly from Iran, because the attack location is about 2,500 km from Sana’a, Yemen, although Iranian involvement was not confirmed.
On Dec. 22, the White House blamed Iran for the ship attacks, basically describing the Houthis as Iranian proxies. “We know that Iran was deeply involved in planning the operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said, reported CBS. “We have no reason to believe that Iran is trying to dissuade the Houthis from this reckless behavior.”
The White House said that U.S. visual analysis found nearly identical features between Iran’s KAS-04 drones and the unmanned vehicles fired by the Houthis, as well as consistent features between Iranian and Houthi missiles. The Houthis are also reliant on Iranian-provided monitoring systems at sea, the White House said. “Moreover, Iranian-provided tactical intelligence has been critical in enabling Houthi targeting of maritime vessels since the group commenced attacks in November,” Watson said.