UK destroyer downs suspected attack drone 'targeting Red Sea shipping'

AFP , Saturday 16 Dec 2023

A UK destroyer has brought down a suspected attack drone in the Red Sea, defence minister Grant Shapps said Saturday, amid rising maritime tensions in the region.

UK destroyer
In this photo provided by the Royal Navy on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, an image of HMS Diamond firing its Sea Viper missile to engage and shot down an aerial drone over the Red Sea. AP

 

Britain announced last month that it was sending HMS Diamond, one of its most advanced naval vessels, to the Gulf to shore up its presence in the region.

"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," Shapps said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.

HMS Diamond, a Type 45 destroyer, is conducting operations to ensure freedom of navigation, reassure merchant vessels and ensure the safe flow of trade, the defence ministry said.

The deployment followed the outbreak of Israel's war on Gaza and the seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo vessel by Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Red Sea on November 19.

The Houthis have launched a series of drone and missile strikes targeting Israel since Israeli forces invaded Gaza, killing nearly 19,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The Houthi rebels have threatened to attack any vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine are allowed into the besieged strip.

Two of the world's largest shipping firms, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, said Friday they were suspending passage through a Red Sea strait vital for global commerce, after the incidents.

Shapps warned Saturday that "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," he added.

Royal Navy vessels have been permanently deployed to the region since 1980 and since 2011 have fallen under "Operation Kipion", the name used for the UK's maritime presence in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The vessel joined the frigate HMS Lancaster which deployed to the region last year, as well as three mine hunters and a support ship.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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