Maritime agencies report explosion off Yemen coast

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - DUBAI, Dec 18 — A “possible explosion” struck a key shipping lane off Yemen today, two maritime agencies said, the latest incident in the vital waterway threatened by Huthi rebel attacks.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations issued a warning of a potential explosion striking near a vessel passing through the Bab al-Mandeb strait that separates the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa.

“The captain reported... the ‘explosion’ occurring two nautical miles off one of the vessel’s quarters while it was transiting,” said maritime security firm Ambrey.

The incident took place as Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin arrived in Bahrain, home base of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, as part of a Middle East tour that will also take him to Qatar.

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In Manama, he is to discuss “US efforts to convene multilateral coalitions to respond to aggression at sea that threatens shipping and the global economy,” a Pentagon statement said at the weekend.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels have launched a flurry of drone and missile attacks on vessels entering the Red Sea through the strait, saying they are seeking to put pressure on Israel to end its devastating war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

In response to the attacks, four major shipping firms, including two of the world’s largest, have said they are rerouting their vessels away from the Red Sea.

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On Saturday, a US destroyer shot down 14 drones in the Red Sea launched from rebel-controlled areas of Yemen, the US military said.

And the British government said one of its destroyers had also brought down a suspected attack drone in the area.

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam said that neutral Oman had launched mediation efforts to safeguard shipping using the waterway.

“Under the sponsorship of our brothers in the Sultanate of Oman, communication and discussion continue with a number of international parties regarding operations in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.

The spokesman said rebels would continue to conduct attacks on Israel-linked vessels or ships heading to Israeli ports unless more food and medicine is allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip. — AFP

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