This handout photograph taken on March 6, 2024 and released by the Indian Navy shows the Barbados-flagged bulk carrier following a attack by Yemen's Houthi militants, in Gulf of Aden. Image Credit: AFP

DUBAI: A vessel sailing off southern Yemen reported an explosion nearby on Sunday, a British maritime security agency said, the latest incident as Al Houthi militants have attacked shipping on the vital Red Sea route.

United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations said a commercial ship “has reported an explosion in close proximity to the vessel”, causing no casualties or damage.

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The blast hit as the ship was sailing “85 nautical miles east of Aden” in Yemen, and the vessel was “proceeding to its next port of call”, said UKMTO, which is run by the Royal Navy.

It did not identify the vessel.

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There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the reported attack, which comes after Yemen’s Iran-backed Al Houthis have threatened to expand the harassment campaign which has disrupted global trade.

The rebels have launched dozens of missile and drone strikes on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden over the past four months, actions they say are in solidarity with Palestinians.

The Houthis say they are targeting Israel-linked shipping as part of an “axis of resistance” of Iran allies in protest at Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The United States, which leads an international coalition meant to protect Red Sea shipping, has since mid-January struck Houthi targets in Yemen.

The US Central Command said on Saturday its forces had “destroyed five unmanned surface vessels and one” drone in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

Separately, the US military’s Central Command said it carried out a series of strikes targeting the Houthis.

It said it destroyed five drone boats and one drone before takeoff from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen on Saturday. It was an unusually high number of drone boats to be destroyed.

Hypersonic missile

Separately, the US military shot down one Houthi drone over the Red Sea, while another was “presumed to have crashed.”

“There were no reports of damage or injuries from ships in the vicinity,” Central Command said.

The Houthis have attacked ships since November, saying they want to force Israel to end its offensive in the Gaza Strip against Hamas.

The ships targeted by the Houthis, however, largely have had little or no connection to Israel, the US or other nations involved in the war.

The militants have also fired missiles toward Israel, though they have largely fallen short or been intercepted.

The assaults on shipping have raised the profile of the Houthis, who are members of Islam’s minority Shiite Zaydi sect, which ruled Yemen for 1,000 years until 1962.

A report Thursday claimed the Houthis now have a hypersonic missile, potentially increasing that cachet and putting more pressure on Israel after a ceasefire deal failed to take hold in Gaza before Ramadan.

Hypersonic missiles would pose a more serious threat to American and allied warships in the region.

Earlier in March, a Houthi missile struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, killing three of its crew members and forcing survivors to abandon the vessel. It marked the first fatal attack by the Houthis on shipping.

Other recent Houthi actions include an attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertilizer that later sank after drifting for several days.