Clip shows fire that destroyed US military ship in 2020, not 'Huthi attack in 2024'

Misrepresented images and clips are spreading on social media following the continued aggression by Yemen's Huthi rebels against vessels in and around the Red Sea, which has led to strikes in Yemen by US and British forces. In one recent example, a video of a burning US military ship has been viewed tens of thousands of times on Facebook and TikTok with a false claim that it had been targeted by the Huthis in 2024. The footage in fact shows the massive fire that engulfed the USS Bonhomme Richard in 2020 which eventually led to the military ship's decommissioning.

"US Ship Damaged by Houthi Attack," reads the Malay-language text overlaid on the video posted on TikTok on January 11, 2024.

The clip, which has more than 1,500 views, shows thick plumes of smoke billowing into the sky with tugboats spraying water on the burning ship and firefighters working on extinguishing the ship's fire.

The Malay-language caption of the false post partly says: "The warship USS Bonhomme Richard was reportedly targeted by the Houthis in the Red Sea last night."

Screenshot of the false post, taken on January 23, 2024

In November 2023, the Huthis began targeting ships in the Red Sea they claimed were linked to Israel -- attacks they said were in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israeli forces are battling Hamas.

Around 12 percent of global trade normally passes through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea's entrance between southwest Yemen and Djibouti, but the rebel attacks have caused much shipping to be diverted thousands of miles around Africa.

In January 2024, the United States and Britain carried out strikes on dozens of rebel targets, and American forces have since hit a number of missiles that Washington says were ready to launch and posed a threat to both civilian and military vessels.

The 27-second video has racked up more than 24,000 views in total after it appeared alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, here and here, as well as TikTok here and here.

The claim also circulated in Arabic.

The USS Bonhomme Richard, however, was decommissioned in April 2021 after it had been extensively damaged by a massive fire a few months prior (archived links here and here).

Reverse image searches of keyframes on Google found the video in the posts was earlier shared in a Facebook post here on July 13, 2020, which says it shows fire engulfing the military ship following an explosion (archived link).

Below are screenshot comparisons of the video in the false post (left) and the genuine Facebook video from 2020 (right):

Screenshot comparisons of the video shared in the false post (left) and the genuine Facebook video from 2020 (right)

The USS Bonhomme Richard was at its home port in the US city of San Diego for maintenance when an explosion erupted on July 12, 2020 with 160 sailors on board, AFP reported

According to naval officials, 17 sailors and four civilians were injured and transported to the hospital while several firefighters also suffered burns and smoke inhalation.

First responders worked for four days to extinguish the blaze.

According to a report by the CNN in September 2022, a sailor charged with causing the fire was found not guilty by a Navy judge (archived link).

AFP aerial footage from the time, published here and here, also shows the fire from the military ship. 

AFP has debunked misinformation around the Red Sea attacks here, here and here.

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