Bloomberg reports: Houthi rebels in Yemen have strengthened their positions on two islands in the strait of Bab el-Mandeb, deploying weapons that may put commercial and military vessels at risk, Djibouti’s foreign minister said.
The fighters have placed missiles, long-range cannons and “small rapid boats” loaded with heavy weaponry on Perim, the island that divides the strait into two channels between Djibouti and Yemen, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf said in an interview Thursday in Djibouti City. The Houthis are also reinforcing their positions on a smaller island in the area, he said.
“They are preparing themselves, at least to defend themselves if there is a blockade, or to attack vessels in the strait of Bab el-Mandeb if they feel that they are threatened when it comes to the control of the coastal areas of Yemen,” Youssouf said. “The prospect of a war in the strait of Bab al-Mandeb is a real one.”
The Bab el-Mandeb is the fourth-busiest oil and fuel shipping bottleneck in the world by volume. It’s located between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea, and gives crude tankers access to the Red Sea as well as the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. The strait is 18 miles wide at its narrowest point, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. [Continue reading…]