The United States says the Norwegian-registered ship Strinda caught fire after being bombed, but no casualties were reported.
A tanker ship traveling through the strategic Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which separates East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula off the coast of Yemen, was hit by a missile.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the ship Strinda, owned and operated by Norway, was bombed at around midnight local time (21:00 GMT on Monday).
US Central Command said in a statement that the ship “was attacked by what is believed to be an anti-ship cruise missile launched from a Houthi-controlled area in Yemen as it passed through Bab al-Mandab.”
The Strinda, an oil and chemicals tanker, is part of the fleet of Bergen-based shipping company Mowinckels Rederi, according to its website, and was en route to Italy.
CEO Geir Belsnes confirmed that the ship was “hit by a missile” and caught fire.
“Fortunately, there were no casualties among any of the crew members who were able to extinguish the fire,” Belsnis told Al Jazeera in an email. “Our focus was, and continues to be, on the safety and well-being of the sailors on board.”
He added that the ship “is now heading to a safe port.”
The attack on the ship comes at a time when threats to commercial shipping in the region are escalating amid the escalation of the war between Israel and Hamas. The Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen carried out a series of attacks on ships in the Red Sea and launched drones and missiles targeting Israel. In recent days, they have threatened to target any ship they believe is heading to or coming from Israel.
The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, although the Associated Press news agency quoted the rebels’ military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, as saying that an important announcement would be made soon.
UK Maritime Trade Operations, a maritime agency that provides security alerts to ships, had earlier reported a fire on an unidentified vessel about 15 nautical miles (28 km) off the Yemeni port of Mokha.
The coordinates correspond to the last known position of the ship Strinda, part of the fleet of Bergen-based Mowinckels Rederi, according to its website. The company did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
US Central Command said the USS Mason responded to Strinda’s distress call and provided assistance.
The United States and France stopped short of saying that their ships were targeted, but said that Houthi drones headed toward their ships and were shot down in self-defense.
Washington has so far refused to respond directly to the attacks, as has Israel, whose military continues to describe the ships as having no connection to its country.
In November, the Houthis seized an Israel-linked vehicle transport ship in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. The ship is still being held by rebels near the coastal city of Hodeidah. Separately, a container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire was attacked by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean.
The initial ceasefire between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition fighting on behalf of the Yemeni government in exile is still holding after years of fighting that has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
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