UK agency says explosions reported near ship in Bab el-Mandeb Strait

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — British maritime security agency UKMTO reports explosions near a cargo ship in the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which separates the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations says it has received reports of up to three explosions 1-5 nautical miles from the merchant vessel, which was traveling between the coasts of Eritrea and Yemen.

“Master reports no damage to the vessel and crew are reported safe at present,” the agency, run by Britain’s Royal Navy, says in a brief message. “Authorities are investigating.”

In recent weeks, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have launched a flurry of drone and missile strikes targeting commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

They say their strikes are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling Hamas terrorists.

The Houthis have warned they will target ships sailing in the Red Sea that have links to Israel.

Several missiles and drones have been shot down by US, French and British warships patrolling the area.

According to the Pentagon, the Houthis, who control the Yemeni capital Sanaa and much of the Red Sea coast, have launched dozens of drone and missile attacks, targeting a dozen merchant ships.

The attacks endanger a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade, prompting the United States to set up a multinational naval task force to protect Red Sea shipping.

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