Yemen’s Houthi militia released a video on Monday showing its forces hijacking the ship Galaxy Leader, a day after announcing it had seized the vessel in the Red Sea as a demonstration of support for “the oppressed Palestinian people.”
The video, whose authenticity was verified by The New York Times, shows at least 10 armed men on the deck of the roughly 600-foot-long vessel after jumping out of a military helicopter hovering just above it.
Most of the video appears to come from cameras attached to men’s heads, and follows them as they seize control of the bridge from crew members. A later section of the video, taken from a distance, shows a handful of small boats — of a type known to be used by Houthi rebels — moving around and alongside the ship. One flies a Yemeni flag used by the Houthis as well as a Palestinian flag; the same flags are by this point flying on the Galaxy Leader.
The whereabouts of the Galaxy Leader has been unknown since Saturday, when its last received location signal showed it in the Red Sea, between Saudi Arabia and Sudan. But the new video contains clues about when and where the vessel was hijacked.
A clock on the wall of the Galaxy Leader’s bridge in the video shows a time of just after 1 p.m. Additionally, a navigational computer display shows the ship had traveled almost three quarters of the way down Yemen’s coast. The evidence suggests that Houthi fighters took over the vessel when it was within quick and easy striking distance of Yemen’s coast, rather than further north in the middle of the Red Sea.
A Times analysis of a satellite image captured on Sunday morning local time — hours before the time shown on the bridge clock — offers further evidence that the Galaxy Leader had traveled several hundred miles beyond its last known location. In the image, a ship whose visual characteristics and dimensions show it to be the Galaxy Leader is seen transiting the Red Sea near the Hanish group of Yemeni islands. The satellite image was likely captured just hours before the hijacking. Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, which monitors global shipping, first spotted the ship in the image.
Hours before the hijacking, the Houthi militia had threatened to target Israeli-flagged, owned and operated ships traversing the Red Sea. Israel’s military said the ship was en route to India from Turkey and had an “international crew, without Israelis.” The vessel, which is listed as a vehicle carrier, is British-owned and operated by a Japanese company.
The company’s beneficial owner — meaning the person who exercises control over it, owns more than a quarter of it or receives substantial economic benefit from it — appears to have at some point been an Israeli billionaire, Rami Ungar, according to the Paradise Papers, a major leak of confidential documents that in 2017 exposed a hidden world of wealth and ownership.