‘Not us’, say Houthi rebels as trio of submarine cables cut in Red Sea


According to HGC Global Communications, the damage has disrupted around a quarter of data traffic travelling through the volatile region

This week, official statements from Hong Kong-based HGC Global Communications have confirmed that three submarine cable systems – the Asia-Africa-Europe 1, the Europe India Gateway, and the Seacom-TGN-Gulf systems – have been severed in the Red Sea.

The cables carry large volumes of data traffic from Asia to Europe, much of which is currently being rerouted over 11 neighbouring submarine systems.

According to HGC, the damage impacts roughly 25% of data traffic passing through the Red Sea.

Processes related to repairing the cables are reportedly already underway, though these are likely to take a number of weeks, particularly given the ongoing conflict in the local area.

Exactly what has caused the damage to the cables has yet to be revealed – indeed, it is hard to ascertain the causes of cable damage before the cables have been dredged up for repairs – though there are fears that it could deliberate sabotage by the Houthi rebels currently attacking Western shipping operations nearby.

At the end of last year, Houthi-linked media published a map showing the local submarine cable systems, along with ambiguous messaging that could hint at the infrastructure being a potential target for attack.

However, the Houthi rebels deny sabotaging the cables, instead blaming the increased Western naval presence for the disruption.

“The hostilities on Yemen by the British and U.S. naval military units caused a disruption in the submarine cables in the Red Sea, which jeopardized the security and safety of international communications and the normal flow of information,” said a statement from Yemen’s Transportation Ministry, which is currently under Houthi control.

Submarine cables being severed is, in fact, a fairly common occurrence, with cables typically being damaged by becoming entangled in trawling nets or on a ships anchor.

Deliberate attacks on submarine infrastructure are incredibly rare, requiring both knowledge of the cable’s precise location as well as the case to disrupt the cables sometimes hundreds of metres beneath the surface.

While the submarine cables near Yemen’s coastline are, in places, only around 100 metres deep, the chances of them being specifically targeted by the rebels seems slim, particularly given the local military presence throughout the area.

Want to keep up with all the latest submarine cable news from around the world? Join the experts in discussion at Submarine Networks EMEA, the world’s largest submarine telecoms conference

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