Royal Navy destroyer shoots down drone targeting cargo ships in the Red Sea, Grant Shapps says

16 December 2023, 11:53 | Updated: 2 January 2024, 07:48

HMS Diamond has shot down a drone
HMS Diamond has shot down a drone. Picture: Alamy/Twitter

By Kit Heren

A royal navy ship has shot down an attack drone that had been targeting cargo vessels in the Red Sea.

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Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said that HMS Diamond had recently been sent to the region to help tackle a recent rise in attacks on merchant shipping.

Missile attacks have been coming from Houthi rebel-controlled parts of Yemen, at the south of the Arabian peninsula, which borders the Red Sea, a vital shipping lane.

The attacks have been going on since the start of the war in Gaza. The Houthis, like Hamas, are backed by Iran.

In a statement, Mr Shapps said: "Overnight, HMS Diamond shot down a suspected attack drone which was targeting merchant shipping in the Red Sea. One Sea Viper missile was fired and successfully destroyed the target.

Read more: Moment Iran-backed Houthi rebels stormed cargo ship part-owned by Israeli tycoon in the Red Sea

Read more: US warship attacked 'by Yemen rebels' in latest maritime melee over support for Israel

"The ship recently arrived in the region to bolster international efforts to maintain maritime security.

"The recent spate of illegal attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security in the Red Sea.

"The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade."

It comes after two ships were hit by attacks from the Houthi-controlled area as they were passing through the Bab al-Mandab strait, the narrow point at the south of the Red Sea between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

The two Liberian vessels were hit by a drone and missiles respectively. A third ship turned around after being threatened by Houthi forces, Reuters reported.

Attacks have become so frequent that shipping giant Maersk said it would not send ships through the Red Sea until further notice, with competitor Hapag Lloyd considering a similar move.

The US has been trying to gather a coalition of forces to ensure the safe passage of ships through the Red Sea.

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