Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen disrupt maritime traffic in the Red Sea

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MOGADISHU, Somalia - Maritime security organizations reported a drone attack late Monday on a cargo ship in the Red Sea, the latest in a string of attacks as Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen disrupt maritime traffic in the region.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said an official from the ship reported it being hit by a drone, “resulting in superficial damage to the accommodation superstructure.”

The UKMTO report said the incident happened about 110 kilometers north of Djibouti, and that the crew was safe and the ship was traveling to its next port of call.

British maritime security firm Ambrey reported an attack in the same area, identifying the ship as a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier.

In another attack Monday, the Greek-flagged, U.S.-owned bulk carrier Sea Champion reported being targeted twice by missiles, with one causing minor damage to the ship and the other landing in the water nearby.

The ship was carrying grain from Argentina to Yemen’s port of Aden.

UKMTO said the attack, which happened about 185 kilometers east of Aden, left “evidence of shrapnel and damage to paintwork.” There were no reported injuries.

The U.S. military said Monday that the crew of a third ship, which was struck late Sunday by two anti-ship ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen, had abandoned the vessel and was taken to a nearby port by a merchant ship.

The Belize-flagged, UK-owned Rubymar made a distress call after the attack, and a U.S.-led coalition warship responded along with the merchant ship to provide help.

Security firm LSS-SAPU, which is responsible for safety on the Rubymar, told Reuters that the ship was taking on water.

A Houthi spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the militants had fired “several missiles” at the Rubymar.

The Houthi attacks have disrupted global shipping in the region since November, with some carriers now avoiding the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, a key passage to the Suez Canal. Instead, some cargo companies are sending their vessels an extra 6,400 kilometers around Africa, inflating the cost of shipping and adding about 10 days of travel time in each direction.

The Houthis have said their attacks are in solidarity with Palestinians amid the war in Gaza.

The U.S. and British militaries have intercepted some of the Houthi attacks, while also carrying out strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.

The European Union announced Monday it was launching its naval mission to protect Red Sea shipping.

"Europe will ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, working alongside our international partners," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Some information for this story came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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