Houthi rebels in Yemen defended their capture of three ships in the Red Sea on Tuesday, claiming the vessels had not responded after being issued warnings.
The leader of the rebels also said the ships’ Korean members, two people out of a total crew of 16, will be released after undergoing a “legal process.”
The ships were seized off the coast of Yemen on Monday, according to a rebel-controlled al-Masira TV broadcast on Tuesday.
“The [rebels’] Yemeni coast guard was aware of the ships’ incursion into territorial waters and sent a warning, but there was no response,” the rebels said in statement, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
The capture of the boats took place about 15 miles west of Yemen’s Kamaran Island. South Korean crew members are detained at Salif port in Hodeidah, Yemen, and are in good condition, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.
On Tuesday the rebels said the ships had “clearly violated” international maritime law and Yemen’s sovereignty. The group did not refer to the Korean nationality of the crew in the al-Masira broadcast, mentioning instead a tug boat seized on Monday was of Saudi Arabian nationality.
Three boats were captured on Monday, but only two Korean nationals were on board. A drilling rig that belongs to South Korean firm Woongjin Development was on board one of the ships.
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Houthi rebels’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said on social media Tuesday the rebels retain the right to detain any suspicious vessels found off the coast of Yemen.
Al-Houthi added there is no need to worry about the crew, and that they would be released soon if found to be of South Korean affiliation.