Merchant ship damaged by drone attack in Red Sea, UK agency says

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A drone attack damaged a merchant ship in the Red Sea near Yemen on Sunday, two maritime security agencies said, with minor injuries reported.

Vessels in and around the Red Sea, which is vital to world trade, have come under repeated attack for months by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. The Houthis say they are acting in support of Palestinians during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

The latest attack occurred about 65 nautical miles (120 kilometres) west of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which is run by Britain’s Royal Navy.

“The Master of a merchant vessel reports being hit by uncrewed aerial system (UAS), resulting in damage to the vessel,” said a bulletin from the agency, adding that the “vessel is proceeding to its next port of call” and initially reporting no casualties.

“Authorities are investigating,” it added.

British maritime security firm Ambrey said the vessel was “a Liberia-flagged, Greece-owned bulk carrier”.

The Joint Maritime Information Centre (JMIC), working with a Western-led naval task force in the region, said it was “the second time the vessel was targeted” after missiles were fired at it earlier on its voyage through the Gulf of Aden.

“While transiting in the Red Sea, the vessel reported being hit... Several members of the crew sustained non-life threatening injuries that do not require immediate medical attention,” the centre said.

“JMIC has investigated and assesses this vessel was targeted due to other vessels within its company structure making port calls in Israel.”

Later on Sunday, UKMTO said it received a distress call from a second vessel, this one off Yemen’s southeastern coast, that had “suffered flooding that cannot be contained”.

UKMTO did not specify what caused the incident.

“This has forced the master and crew to abandon the ship. They have been recovered by an assisting ship,” UKMTO said in an incident report, adding that the flooded vessel “remains adrift”.

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On Saturday, United States Central Command, which has carried out retaliatory strikes against Houthi targets over their attacks on shipping, said it had destroyed three nautical drones belonging to the group over the previous 24 hours.

“It was determined these systems presented an imminent threat to US, coalition forces, and merchant vessels in the region,” Central Command said.

It also said the Houthis had launched three anti-ship missiles into the Gulf of Aden, but no injuries or significant damage were reported.

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