Reports have been surfacing about a shootout onboard 164ft (50m) classic yacht KALIZMA, off the coast of Yemen on April 28 at 2:28am, while the yacht was on route to Egypt. The yacht, once famously owned by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor is now owned by Indian billionaire, Shirish Saraf.
Featured Image Credit: KALIZMA
Reports over the weekend included the yacht’s security personnel firing at Coast Guard officials, believing them to be pirates, while Yemen officials state they were indeed official members of the Coast Guard. However, the yacht’s manager, Aashim Mongia, said there was absolutely no case of “mistaken identity.” With a number of conflicting accounts, the Yemeni Coast Guard (YCG) has now released an official statement hoping to shed light on the developing story.
Statement from the YCG
Saraf has publicly stated that KALIZMA was on her way to Egypt when the yacht was pursued by pirates for four to five hours. Three security guards were onboard at the time of the incident when a gunfight broke out, with eyewitnesses onboard KALIZMA stating as many as 150 rounds were fired.
The YCG, however, disputes these claims, stating “patrol boats introduced themselves and tried to communicate with the yacht via the VHF radio-bridge to bridge COMMS, but the yacht captain did not respond to the repeated calls.” In addition, KALIZMA, “was not flying a flag and was sailing in Yemeni territorial waters, about six nautical miles from the coast. The patrol boats approached the yacht in an attempt to attract the attention of the crew to respond to the VHF communication.
It’s at this time, according to the YCG statement, that KALIZMA started to, “increase speed and heavily fired at the Yemeni Law enforcement boats. The Yemeni Law enforcement vessels fired back, and it is reported that this resulted in the death of one Yemeni soldier, others wounded and damage to the vessels.”
KALIZMA began to head for international waters at this time, issuing a distress call. It was after this “false call” according to the YCG, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) issued an “attack” warning, but following clarification from YCG, this was downgraded to an “incident.”
Further confusing the reports, the manager of KALIZMA has claimed that an aircraft was able to identify multiple pirate skiffs falsely operating as members of the Yemeni Coast Guard in the area with two other distress calls regarding piracy were made from merchant ships also in the area.
Pictures have been shared of the KALIZMA showing a number of bullet holes and damage reported as a result of these shots fired. Medical assistance was sent on board; however, no other injuries were reported other than a security guard taking a shot to the shoulder. There was a total of nine crew onboard and three security guards.
The Yemeni Coast Guard also stated, “the Yemeni government reserves its rights regarding what resulted from the incident, as the yacht entered the territorial waters of Yemen and was sailing without showing a flag. [KALIZMA] refused to respond to the law enforcement assets and stop, which is clear violation of international maritime law and the rules of innocent passage.”
The YCG statement concludes with the fact that KALIZMA did not “have any justification nor right to use arms and ammunition…the crew onboard [the Coast Guard vessel] were all in military dress and the boats were of naval design, not of a traditional fishing boat design.”
This is a developing story, and we will be updating as and when new reports surface.