Thursday, June 13, 2024

Ship hijacked in the Red Sea reportedly has at least 1 Mexican citizen aboard

At least one Mexican is believed to be on board a ship hijacked by Yemen’s Houthi militia in the Red Sea.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels said Sunday that they had seized the ship Galaxy Leader due to its connection with Israel and to demonstrate support for “the oppressed Palestinian people.”

Galaxy leader hijacking
Footage uploaded to social media showed the pirates landing on the deck before seizing the ship. (Screen capture)

“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” said the Houthis, whose militia members jumped onto the ship from a military helicopter.

Registered as a vehicle carrier, Galaxy Leader is British-owned and operated by a Japanese company, The New York Times reported Monday.

“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,” the Times said, citing information in the Paradise Papers, a trove of documents leaked to German journalists in 2017.

The Israeli military said that Galaxy Leader was traveling to India from Turkey and had an “international crew,” without Israelis.

Arturo Zacarías Meza
Engineer Arturo Zacarías Meza is on board the Galaxy Leader, according to family members. (Arturo Zacarías Meza/Facebook)

The ship’s Japanese operator, NYK Line, said that crew members are from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Mexico.

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry (SRE) said in a statement on Monday that it had received information that two of 25 crew members are Mexican.

However, one Mexican crew member – chief engineer Manuel Rolán Hernández of Veracruz – said on Facebook that he disembarked the ship shortly before the “critical situation” it faced and was on vacation, apparently in Turkey.

Another Veracruz man, Arturo Zacarías Meza, was on the ship when the hijacking occurred, according to family members of the 31-year-old engineer. According to the El Universal newspaper, the two crew members referred to by the SRE are Rolán and Zacarías.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been engaged in a long-running war against neighboring Saudi Arabia. (Disclose)

In an interview with Milenio Televisión, the mother of the latter called for all crew members to be “released as soon as possible.”

“I also want to ask all people to say a prayer for me,” María Meza said before expressing hope that all the crew members are safe and sound and will be back home with their loved ones soon.

The SRE said that the Mexican Embassy in Saudi Arabia has used diplomatic channels to “corroborate the situation of the crew,” and that it has communicated “with representatives of embassies of other countries involved to gather information” and taken steps aimed at the release of the crew members on the hijacked vessel.

The New York Times reported that “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.”

Two Mexican hostages held by Hamas
The two Mexican hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 are believed to still be held in Gaza. (Social media)

It also said that video evidence “suggests that Houthi fighters took over the vessel when it was within quick and easy striking distance of Yemen’s coast.”

The hijacking occurred six weeks after the Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking over 200 hostages.

Two Mexicans are among the hostages that are believed to still be in the custody of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which has been relentlessly bombed by Israel since the Oct. 7 attack on its citizens.

With reports from Milenio, El Universal, Infobae, The New York Times and AP

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