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X Users Salvage Old Reels of Sinking Ships to Push Houthi Propaganda

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels are continuing their monthslong campaign to target commercial ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to show their solidarity with Hamas and opposition to Israel.

Sympathetic X users, in turn, continue to fabricate or exaggerate the success of those strikes by repurposing old, unrelated images and footage to bolster the Houthis’ disinformation narrative.

On February 6, the Houthis’ military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, announced the group had hit two ships — the Star Nasia and the Morning Tide — which he respectively identified as U.S. and U.K. vessels.

Despite systematically targeting civilian vessels in international waters — a violation of international law — Sarea spun those attacks as a response to “aggression,” claiming they reflected Yemen’s right to self-defense.

On January 17, the United States redesignated the Houthis as a major terrorist group on account of those attacks.

X users posting in multiple languages paired news of the February 6 strikes with unrelated footage, which drastically misrepresented how successful the Houthis attacks were.

For example, on February 6, X user eHSzWWZEDxl1erX, with 18,000 followers, posted footage of a missile strike on a ship at sea. He added the following commentary in Arabic:

“With the help of God Almighty, the naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out two military operations in the Red Sea, the first targeting an American ship (Star Nasia) and the other targeting a British ship (Morning Tide).”

Screenshot of a Feb. 6, 2024, X post, which falsely links footage of the 2018 sinking of the ex-USS Racine by the U.S. and its allies to recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Screenshot of a Feb. 6, 2024, X post, which falsely links footage of the 2018 sinking of the ex-USS Racine by the U.S. and its allies to recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

That post had received 157,400 views, 1,700 reposts and 6,700 likes at the time of writing.

Another user posting in Arabic, identified as yemen_sameer, posted the same video to X with this caption:

“This is what will happen by the power of God [to] US battleships and aircraft carriers.”

That post had received 11,000 views, 145 reposts and 519 likes as of the time of writing.

Another user, posting in Spanish, Al_Baadaar, also shared the video on February 7 and summarized the Houthi’s announcement that they had struck the Star Nasia and the Morning Tide in the Red Sea.

Screenshot of a Feb. 7, 2024, X post, which falsely links footage of the 2018 sinking of the ex-USS Racine by the U.S. and its allies to recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Screenshot of a Feb. 7, 2024, X post, which falsely links footage of the 2018 sinking of the ex-USS Racine by the U.S. and its allies to recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

However, the collage of footage those X users shared shows the 2018 sinking of the ex-USS Racine (ex-Racine) by the U.S. and its allies.

Ex-Racine, a Newport-class tank landing ship, was decommissioned in 1993 and removed from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register in 2008.

On July 12, 2018, forces from Australia, Japan and the United States participated in the sinking exercise (SINKEX) of ex-Racine 55 nautical miles north of Kauai, Hawaii. That sinking exercise was part of the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the largest international maritime warfare exercise.

U.S., Japanese and Australian forces launched a joint “attack” on ex-Racine with land, sea and air-based units. That included a live firing of surface-to-ship missiles by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the launch of a Naval Strike Missile from a launcher on the back of a U.S. Army Palletized Load System truck.

The Royal Australian Air Force launched a Harpoon anti-ship missile from a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. The USS Olympia attack submarine finished off ex-Racine with a Harpoon anti-ship missile, followed by an MK-48 torpedo.

That’s not the only footage falsely attributed to the February 6 attacks.

Other X users repeated the Houthis’ announcement regarding the attack on the Morning Tide and the Star Nasia and paired it with footage from the 2021 X-Press Pearl container ship disaster.

For example, X user soneerbozkurt shared that footage and wrote:

“The Houthi Ansurullah Movement released footage of its anti-ship missiles hitting the US Star Nasia and UK Morning Tide ships passing through the Red Sea #BREAKING”

Screenshot of a Feb. 6, 2024, X post, which falsely links footage of the 2021 X-Press Pearl container ship disaster off the coast of Sri Lanka to recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Screenshot of a Feb. 6, 2024, X post, which falsely links footage of the 2021 X-Press Pearl container ship disaster off the coast of Sri Lanka to recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

A similar post in Turkish from verified X user murkan06 was viewed over 61,000 times at the time of writing, receiving 574 reposts and 2,800 likes.

Screenshot of a Feb. 6, 2024, X post, which falsely links footage of the 2021 X-Press Pearl container ship disaster off the coast of Sri Lanka to recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Screenshot of a Feb. 6, 2024, X post, which falsely links footage of the 2021 X-Press Pearl container ship disaster off the coast of Sri Lanka to recent Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Polygraph.info previously reported on how X users had attempted to pass off footage of the X-Press Pearl, which caught fire and eventually sank off the coast of Sri Lanka in June 2021, as a successful Houthi attack on U.K. or U.S. vessels in the Red Sea.

The footage of the X-Press Pearl disaster had also been used as proof of a Houthi attack on a U.S. cargo ship earlier in January.

In the case of the Morning Tide and the Star Nasia, the Houthis were relatively more successful, although the footage posted by X users greatly distorts how much damage the attacks inflicted.

On February 6, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed the Houthis had fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles at the Star Nasia. While the Houthis identified it as a U.S. ship, the Star Nasia is a Marshall Island-flagged, Greek owned-and-operated bulk carrier.

The Star Nasia, according to CENTCOM, “reported an explosion near the ship causing minor damage but no injuries.”

A Greek shipping ministry official told Reuters it is unclear whether a rocket or a sea mine caused the explosion.

“MV Star Nasia remains seaworthy and is continuing toward its destination,” CENTOM said.

The other ship which came under attack, the Morning Tide, is a Barbados-flagged general cargo ship owned by Furadino Shipping, a U.K. firm.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported a projectile was fired at a ship on February 6, which reports indicate was the Morning Tide.

UKMTO said that a missile passed over the deck of the ship, “causing slight damage to the bridge windows.”

“The vessel and crew are safe. Vessel proceeding on planned passage,” UKMTO said.



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