An Indian-flagged crude oil tanker MV Saibaba in the Red Sea reported that it was hit by an attack drone fired by Houthi militants, sending out a distress call to a US warship USS LABOON (DDG 58) in the area. According to US Central Command, the Gabon-owned tanker MV Saibaba reported no injuries from the strike. This is second incident involving India in some or other way.

Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 25 December 2023

On December 23rd itself, Indian Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Mumbai received information regarding fire onboard MV Chem Pluto. The Merchant ship with 20 Indian and 01 Vietnamese Crew was reportedly attacked by a suspected drone strike or aerial platform. According to sources, the last port of call was al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, on 18 December, General Asim Munir, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff visited U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida as the guest of General Michael Erik Kurilla. I will analyse details in this video but first may I request you to subscribe National Defence.

Thanks for your subscription.  On December 23 two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles were fired into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea from Houthi controlled areas of Yemen. No ships reported being impacted by the ballistic missiles.

Between 3 and 8 p.m. (Sanaa time), the USS LABOON (DDG 58) was patrolling in the Southern Red Sea as part of Operation PROSPERITY GUARDIAN (OPG) and shot down four unmanned aerial drones originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen that were inbound to the USS LABOON. There were no injuries or damage in this incident.

At approximately 8 p.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Naval Forces Central Command received reports from two ships in the Southern Red Sea that they were under attack. 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. A second vessel, the M/V SAIBABA, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker, reported that it was hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported. The USS LABOON (DDG 58) responded to the distress calls from these attacks. These attacks represent

the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since Oct. 17.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. (Iraq time) on Dec. 20, a 122mm rocket was fired at al Assad Air Base in Iraq – there were no injuries or damage caused. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve located the point of origin and passed the location to the Iraqi Security Forces who moved to the site to investigate. The ISF seized a flatbed truck modified to launch up to 5 x 122mm rockets that was located at the site.

While Pakistan Army Chief and ISI chief were on U.S. visit, around same time US Secretary of Defense announced Operation Prosperity Guardian during his multinational middle east visit to Bahrain. A read out form U.S. Central Command says, on 18 December, General Asim Munir, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff visited U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida as the guest of General Michael Erik Kurilla. The meetings focused on shared interests, with a particular emphasis on cooperation in regional security matters. Both leaders discussed opportunities for increased collaborative training and the value of our military-to-military relationship. “I was truly honored to host General Asim Munir,” said General Kurilla, “our relationship with Pakistan goes back over 76 years and is grounded in the pursuit of mutual interests.”

The operation Prosperity Guardian is a new multinational security operation under the umbrella the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of Task Force 153, which focuses on security in the Red Sea.  Secretary Austin also had a virtual meeting with some 40 chief of defense forces. Between 10 and 15 percent of global shipping flows through the Red Sea. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both economically reliant on unhindered commercial shipping in the area are not participating in Op Prosperity Guardian.

The operation aims to ensure the safety of maritime traffic in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb and Gulf of Aden. Following the start of the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, multiple civilian container and freight ships were attacked and hijacked in the Gulf of Aden by Houthi forces. The attacks prompted most major shipping companies to divert their routes away from the Suez Canal. The waterways to and from the Red Sea are shipping chokepoints for the global economy which connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal with the Horn of Africa.


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