Sri Lanka to join US-led Red Sea defense against Houthi rebels.
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Sri Lanka to join US-led Red Sea defense against Houthi rebels.

Earlier this week, a Sri Lankan navy spokesman said the country was preparing to assist the United States in protecting merchant ships sailing in the Red Sea from attacks by Houthi rebels.

As a result of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and Israel’s subsequent war against the militant group in Gaza, Houthi rebels have attacked commercial shipping vessels transiting the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that links Asia and Europe.

Operation Prosperity Guardian was launched to protect ship traffic, and US, French, and British warships patrolled the area.

Sri Lankan ships have not yet been sent, and the area they will patrol has not been decided, said navy spokesman Capt. Gayan Wickramasuriya.

It was criticized by opposition lawmakers in the island nation for sending the ships. While Sri Lankans suffer severe economic hardship at home, government spending LKR 250 million ($777,000) to send ships to fight Houthi rebels in the Red Sea has angered opposition leader Sajith Premadasa.

In defending the move, State Minister of Defense Pramitha Tennakoon said Sri Lanka is opposed to any form of terrorism, and wants to fulfill its “global responsibilities.”

The worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka’s history is affecting the country. It declared bankruptcy in April 2022 after incurring debts of over $83 billion, more than half of which were owed to foreign creditors. Food, fuel and other necessities were in short supply, resulting in an economic crisis.

The shortages of essentials like food, fuel, and medicine have largely abated over the past year, and power supplies have been restored. While the government is raising electricity bills and imposing heavy new income taxes on professionals and businesses, public dissatisfaction has grown.