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US scrambles new task force to counter Houthi attacks in Red Sea

Announcement of Operation Prosperity Guardian comes as shipping firms avoid transiting the Suez Canal in wake of escalating Houthi-led attacks on cargo ships

US scrambles new task force to counter Houthi attacks in Red Sea
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

The US is scrambling a new maritime task force to protect commercial vessels passing through the Red Sea from increasing attacks by Houthi militants in Yemen.

Global shipping companies are rerouting voyages, and sometimes suspending operations, as attacks on ships increase in one of the world’s largest shipping lanes.

“The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen threaten the free flow of commerce, endanger innocent mariners, and violate international law,” US defense secretary Lloyd Austin said.

The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade.

“Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor launching ballistic missiles and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) at merchant vessels from many nations lawfully transiting international waters,” Austin said.

“This is an international challenge that demands collective action,” Austin said, while announcing the launch of Operation Prosperity Guardian.

The United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain will be part of the new multinational security initiative to jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the US department of defense said in a statement.

The new multinational security initiative will come under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and the leadership of its Task Force 153.

The CMF is a multinational naval partnership that promotes security, stability, and prosperity across about 3.2 million sq. m of international waters. This area encompasses some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, stretching from the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz in the north to the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Horn of Africa in the south. Task Force 153, which comes under CMF, specifically focuses on ensuring security in the Red Sea.

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