Iran-backed Houthis launch missile attack on oil tanker in the Red Sea

Iran-backed Houthis have claimed responsibility for launching a missile attack at an oil tanker in the Red Sea.

US officials reported the strike had taken place on Friday against MT Pollux which had left the Russian Black Sea port city Novorossiysk and was bound for India. They said there were no reports of injuries.

The US State Department said the vessel was hit by a missile on its port side.

As Yemeni rebels continue to disrupt one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in protest against Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza, a Houthi military spokesman confirmed the attack on Saturday.

Yahya Sarea said: “The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against a British oil ship (Pollux) in the Red Sea with a large number of appropriate naval missiles.”

He added the strikes “were accurate and direct”.

The US Central Command (Centcom) said that four anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen over several hours on Friday and at least three targeted the MT Pollux, which it said was a Panamanian-flagged, Denmark-owned, Panamanian-registered vessel.

MT Pollux had left Novorossiysk more than three weeks ago on 24 January and was due to arrive in Paradip, west India, on 28 February, according to data from provider LSEG.

In a statement posted on X, on Saturday, Centcom confirmed it had launched a self-defence strike against Houthi targets in Yemen that presented a threat to US Navy and cargo ships in the Red Sea.

It said: “Centcom successfully conducted two self-defence strikes against one mobile anti-ship cruise missile and one mobile unmanned surface vessel (USV) in Yemen. Centcom identified the mobile missile and USV in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined it presented an imminent threat to US Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.”

The Houthis have launched repeated drone and missile attacks against international commercial shipping in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait since mid-November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians.

The UK will continue to bomb the Houthis “as long as it takes” to convince the militants to stop their attacks on the Red Sea, ministers and Government officials have warned.

On Friday, Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron met his Chinese counterpart to urge them to take a tougher stance with Iran over Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Lord Cameron urged Wang Yi at the Munich Security Conference to “support constructive engagement” between the two nations.

Additional reporting by Reuters