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Damage to submarine cables in the Red Sea.  There are fears of an attack, but the Houthis deny this

Damage to submarine cables in the Red Sea. There are fears of an attack, but the Houthis deny this

First attacks on Western ships in the Red Sea, and now (possibly) sabotage of some of the underwater cables that transmit data and maintain the global Internet infrastructure. Reprisals carried out by the Houthi militia, a Yemeni armed group loyal to Iran, are intensifying and may have found new targets, although the militiamen deny this hypothesis.

Let's start from the beginning: According to various media outlets in the region, there are at least four damaged submarine cables in the Red Sea: AAE-1 cable (Asia-Africa-Europe 1, 25 thousand km long, from Southeast Asia). To Europe, the Seacom cable (a 17,000 km cable connecting South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Djibouti, France and India), and the 15,000 km Europe-India Gateway (EIG) cable. And at least one of these cables has officially confirmed damage: this is the Seacom cable.

But the real point is another one: it is not clear whether the damage was caused by acts of vandalism or more trivial maritime accidents (perhaps caused by fishing gear such as trawl nets or anchors being dragged to the seabed). But it must be said that the second hypothesis seems very difficult, taking into account that the construction and laying of cables takes into account maritime traffic and these possibilities.

SEACOM confirmation

As mentioned, the only real confirmation comes from Seacom, the South African company that controls one of the hacked cables. The company discovered the error last Saturday, Chief Digital Officer Prinsh Padayachi confirmed in an interview with Bloomberg. He estimated that the problem lies in waters between 150 and 170 meters deep, in an area where Iranian-backed Houthi fighters have targeted ships with drones and missiles. However, at this time, Seacom cannot determine whether the cable has been compromised due to the Houthi attack or other factors. Only when the company is able to work on the cable will it be able to determine the cause of the damage. However, the incident highlights how vulnerable critical underwater infrastructure is, especially in shallow waters with many cables. There are approximately 16 cable systems in the Red Sea, linking Europe to Asia via Egypt. If the first reports were confirmed, 4 of them would have been vandalized.

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Pending further confirmation, the damage to communications is currently considered significant, but not serious. This is because other cables – which are not affected at the moment – cross the same area linking Asia, Africa and Europe. Seacom itself has already redirected traffic to alternative cables.