US says the Norwegian-registered Strinda caught fire after it was struck but no casualties were reported.
A tanker ship travelling through the strategic Bab el-Mandeb Strait separating East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula off the coast of Yemen has been hit by a missile.
The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) said the Strinda, a Norwegian-owned-and-operated ship, was hit at about midnight local time (21:00 GMT on Monday).
The ship “was attacked by what is assessed to have been an Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen while passing through the Bab-el-Mandeb”, CENTCOM said in a statement.
The private intelligence firm Dryad Global said the Strinda, an oil and chemical tanker, was on its way from Malaysia to the Suez Canal and had armed guards on board as it went through the strait.
The attack on the vessel comes as threats on commercial shipping in the area amid the Israel-Hamas war escalate. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis have carried out a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and launched drones and missiles targeting Israel. In recent days, they have threatened to target any vessel they believe is either going to or coming from Israel.
The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, although the Associated Press news agency reported rebel military spokesperson Brigadier General Yahya Saree saying an important announcement would be made soon.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, a naval agency providing security alerts to ships, earlier reported a fire on an unidentified vessel about 15 nautical miles (28km) off the Yemeni port of Mokha.
The coordinates correspond to the last known location of the Strinda, which is part of the fleet of Bergen-based Mowinckels Rederi, according to its website. The company did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
CENTCOM said the missile attack caused a fire but there were no casualties. The USS Mason had responded to the Strinda’s mayday call and was providing assistance, it added.
The US and France have stopped short of saying their ships have been targeted but have said that Houthi drones have headed towards their ships and been shot down in self-defence.
Washington has so far declined to directly respond to the attacks, as has Israel, whose military continues to describe the ships as not having links to their country.
In November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The rebels still hold the vessel near the port city of Hodeidah. Separately, a container ship owned by an Israeli billionaire came under attack by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean.
A tentative ceasefire between the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition fighting on behalf of Yemen’s exiled government has been holding after years of fighting that has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.