Clip shows US Coast Guard chasing drug traffickers, not 'Yemeni Navy pursuing Israeli submarine'

  • Published on December 19, 2023 at 06:22
  • 3 min read
  • By AFP Indonesia
Yemen's Huthi rebels have claimed responsibility for a spike in attacks in the Red Sea following the Gaza war, which the Iran-backed group says is part of its military campaign against Israel. A video of a boat chasing another vessel, however, has been viewed millions of times in Indonesian posts that falsely link it to increasing tensions in the region. The clip in fact shows a US Coast Guard cutter chasing down suspected drug smugglers in the Pacific Ocean in June 2019.

"The Yemeni Navy raided a submarine belonging to the terrorist Israel," reads the Indonesian-language caption of a video shared on Facebook here on November 23, 2023.

The one-minute video appears to show a boat chasing a semi-submersible vessel. The vessel is then boarded by its pursuers.

The caption is repeated on text overlaid on the video; the overlaid text also says, "The soldiers of Allah never waver in confronting the acts of inhumanity perpetrated by the terrorist Israel".

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on December 8, 2023

The same video was also shared elsewhere on Facebook here, on Instagram here and here, and on TikTok here, accumulating more than three million views in total.

It was shared after Yemen's Huthi rebels seized an Israel-linked cargo ship in the Red Sea on November 19, 2023.

The Huthis -- who control much of Yemen but are not recognised internationally -- are part of the Iran-backed so-called "axis of resistance" arrayed against Israel.

They say they are defending Palestinians from Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Hamas's October 7, 2023 attacks that, according to the latest official Israeli figures, killed around 1,140 people.

Israel's military offensive has reduced much of Gaza to rubble and killed more than 19,400 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The spike in attacks claimed by the Huthis in the Red Sea is fuelling fears of an uncontrolled regional spillover of Yemen's longstanding conflict, AFP reported.

Huthi rebels also claimed responsibility for a missile strike on a Norwegian-flagged tanker, an attack the group said was part of its military campaign against Israel.

The clip circulating on social media, however, is unrelated to tensions in the region and in fact shows a US Coast Guard vessel chasing suspected drug smugglers in the Pacific Ocean in 2019.

'Suspected drug smuggling vessel'

Reverse image and keyword searches on Google and Yandex found the clip was published by the US Department of Defense on its Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) here in July 2019 (archived link).

The DVIDS video is titled, "U.S Coast Guard Cutter Munro crew interdicts suspected drug smuggling vessel".

Its caption reads: "U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) crew members board a self-propelled semi-submersible suspected drug smuggling vessel (SPSS) June 18, 2019, while operating in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

"Purpose-build smuggling vessels like SPSSs are designed to hold large quantities of contraband while evading detection by law enforcement authorities."

Below is a screenshot comparison between the video in the false post (left) and the original 2019 video from DVIDS (right):

Screenshot comparison between the video in the false post (left) and the original 2019 video from DVIDS (right)

In the video, the crew of the chasing vessel can be heard repeatedly shouting the Spanish phrase "Alto su barco ahora", which means: "Stop your ship now".

The clip was also published in reports by US media, including The Washington Post and CNN, in July 2019 (archived links here and here).

The Washington Post report said the raid took place "hundreds of miles off the Colombian and Ecuadorian coast in waters patrolled by the U.S Coast Guard Cutter Munro".

AFP previously debunked a false claim that Yemen had declared war on Israel here, and has debunked other false claims related to the Israel-Hamas war here.

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