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Ruthless ‘King of the Houthis’ holding world’s trade to ransom with threats to hit ships carrying cargo from cars to tea

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HE is the ruthless religious maniac whose face is never seen in his brutal desert fiefdom 3,500 miles from Britain’s shores.

But Islamist Abdul-Malik al-Houthi is the reason why UK consumers may soon pay more for everything from cars and condoms to the Great British cuppa.

Ruthless Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi

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Ruthless Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-HouthiCredit: Wikipedia
Fired up Houthi fighters in Sanaa, Yemen, lift rifles in a rally supporting Gaza

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Fired up Houthi fighters in Sanaa, Yemen, lift rifles in a rally supporting GazaCredit: Getty

Yemen’s “King of the Houthis” is already holding more than a fifth of the world’s sea trade to ransom with drone and missile attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

His strikes have sparked supply fears for big British firms such as Marks & Spencer, Next, Poundland and Primark.

And the terrorist rebel leader has now ramped up his war on global trade by threatening to attack cargo ships hundreds of miles off his stronghold.

Al-Houthi, 44, has also reserved a special “surprise” for his most-hated enemies of all — the British who arm his foes in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Shipping companies are already reeling at the extra cost of an average £800,000 every time they are forced to re-route, coupled with two-week delays.

But completely cutting off the Southern Ocean route could drive many firms to the wall and spark shortages, price hikes and further economic downturns across Europe.

Sainsbury’s recently warned that tea supplies are at risk — which has been linked to the Houthis’ Red Sea attacks.

A sign in one of the chain’s stores read: “We are experiencing supply issues affecting the nationwide ­supply of black tea.

“We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to be back in full supply soon.”

The supermarket later confirmed that supply had become an ­“industry-wide issue”.

So who is this jumped-up tinpot tyrant choking the arteries of trade in goods we all depend on?

Kids tote guns as vast crowds take to streets in Yemen to burn flags & chant ‘America is the devil’ after airstrikes

Al-Houthi is the leader of a Yemeni desert clan who claims to be able to trace his ancestry back to the Prophet Muhammad.

His rebel group ousted the regime of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in 2015 and seized swathes of territory including capital Sanaa.

The Shia Muslim warlord — famed for his ferocity and sending children as young as ten into battle — grabbed power by forging an alliance with those controlling Iran.

And it is Iranian weapons that now threaten to detonate a trade crisis that could affect every family in Britain in the coming months.

Al-Houthi’s brothers Yahia and Abdul-Karim are the chief lieutenants in his regime, which dispenses state-of-the-art Iranian technology and medieval cruelty.

His twisted sect has enslaved Yemenis deemed to be from “inferior” bloodlines and seized control of state media to silence all opposition.

Prisoners who survived detention under al-Houthi’s regime have also spoken of “unimaginable” torture — and told how the Islamist group uses rape as a weapon of war.

Houthi warriors are also known to adhere to a code by which they believe they are “purified” if they rape unholy Yemeni women.

Revelled in chaos

Leader al-Houthi has become obsessed with security after his brothers Hussein, Ibrahim, and Abdulkhaliq were all killed by air strikes or fighting.

The shadowy figure rarely stays more than a night in one place, never meets with the media and does not address his followers in person, to avoid assassination.

He was reported to have been killed or seriously injured during a Saudi Air Force raid in December 2009 but resurfaced in video footage soon after.

Ever since, comrades and foreign officials taken to safe houses to meet him find themselves, instead, addressing him on a TV screen by remote video link.

The Houthis are closely allied to the Iran-backed Hamas savages who massacred 1,200 people in Israel on October 7, triggering the Israeli war in Gaza which has destabilised the Middle East.

Al-Houthi has revelled in the chaos and carnage, as his terror group took its bow on the global stage with attacks that damage economies everywhere.

He claimed to be targeting only Israeli commercial shipping with his arsenal of Iranian missiles and drones.

But he has launched scores of strikes on vessels from many nations.

This month the Barbados-flagged vessel True Confidence was blitzed 50 miles off the Yemeni port of Aden, killing three of the crew and leaving others with horrific burns.

Huge container ships passing Houthi territory in the Bab el- ­Mandeb Strait towards Suez — on the shortest sea route from Asia to Europe — have been under threat for five months.

But al-Houthi’s latest warning affects vessels diverting hundreds of miles away from his lair around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope towards Europe.

Automotive businesses including Michelin, Suzuki, Tesla and Volvo have all been forced to either suspend or reduce production thanks to component shortages.

Houthi fighters open the door to the bridge on a ship's deck in the Red Sea

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Houthi fighters open the door to the bridge on a ship’s deck in the Red SeaCredit: Reuters
British-registered cargo vessel Rubymar sinks after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea

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British-registered cargo vessel Rubymar sinks after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red SeaCredit: EPA
The attacks could drive many firms to the wall and spark shortages and price hikes

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The attacks could drive many firms to the wall and spark shortages and price hikesCredit: LNP

Oil firms including BP and Shell have also been pressured to divert amid threats to fuel prices that threaten to rekindle the spectre of inflation.

Other big businesses also affected include German delivery companies DHL and FedEx, which has been forced to switch part of its business to costly air freight.

Bjorn Gulden, chief executive of sportswear giant Adidas, has also warned “exploding” freight rates were driving up costs amid concern that shop prices will rise.

Warnings have also come from food group Danone, condom makers Durex, Swedish furniture company Ikea, and Marks & Spencer, which was hit by delays of clothing shipments.

Fashion chain Next also predicted sales growth would likely be moderated if disruptions continue through 2024.

Poundland and Primark have also cautioned that supplies could be hit in the coming months if the Houthis are not stopped.

US and British RAF war planes have launched a series of strikes on Houthi drone and missiles bases in Yemen, which have so far failed to stop attacks.

And Iran — emboldened by the savage success of its Hamas allies in Israel — is feared to be honing and distributing increasingly dangerous weapons to its comrades in Yemen.

‘Serious threat’

Defence analyst Paul Beaver told The Sun on Sunday: “The Houthis have warned that they have more ‘surprises’ in store for Israel and its Western allies and it is a threat we must take very seriously.

“Trade routes through the Suez Canal have already been badly affected, with ships having to divert thousands of miles.

“But if that alternative route also comes under serious threat, the effect could be catastrophic and have a serious effect on the supply of products we all rely on.

“It would not surprise me if the Houthis attempted something spectacular far from their territory soon — possibly using a ship-launched kamikaze drone or missile or even an undersea drone.

“They’re enjoying their sudden notoriety and want to make a bigger name for themselves.”

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