US says Houthi drones shot down, as UK brands Iran ‘malign influence’

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron says escalating attacks by Iran-backed groups cannot be tolerated.

Red Sea
Yemen's Houthis have carried out regular attacks on ships in the Red Sea since the start of the war in Gaza [Reuters]

The United States has announced that it shot down four drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis, as the United Kingdom’s top diplomat branded the rebel group’s ally Iran a “malign influence”.

The USS Laboon guided-missile destroyer downed the drones as they were travelling towards the vessel and there were no injuries or damage, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Saturday.

The USS Laboon also responded to distress calls from a Norwegian-flagged oil tanker and an Indian-flagged crude oil tanker that came under attack.

“These attacks represent the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17,” CENTCOM said in a post on X.

The Houthis also fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea but no vessels were hit in the attacks, CENTCOM said.

Separately, the US Defense Department said a drone launched from Iran struck a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean early on Saturday.

No casualties were reported.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency earlier said a drone had exploded near a vessel in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, off the coast of Yemen.

Reporting from Djibouti in east Africa, Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar, highlighted that this incident portrays how the war on Gaza is not only a regional war.

Referring to the Pentagon and the UK’s statement on the drone in the Indian Ocean, Serdar said that it is still “not clear whether it attacked the vessel or whether it was conducting surveillance activities.”

But he noted that the US statement is coming just days after Washington officials said that Iran was deeply involved in the Red sea attacks conducted by the Houthis.

The Houthis, who control large parts of Yemen, have waged an escalating campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial shipping since the start of the war in Gaza, in what the rebel group has characterised as a show of support for Palestinians facing Israeli bombardment.

The US on Tuesday launched a multinational security force, dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian, to protect shipping amid escalating attacks in the waterway, one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron also condemned Iran for supporting the Houthis and other armed groups.

In an interview published in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Cameron said Tehran has been a “thoroughly malign influence in the region and in the world”.

“You’ve got the Houthis, you’ve got Hezbollah, you’ve got the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq that have actually been attacking British and American bases, troops. And, of course, Hamas,” the former UK prime minister said.

“So you’ve got all of these proxies, and I think it’s incredibly important that, first of all, Iran receives an incredibly clear message that this escalation will not be tolerated.”

Tehran has acknowledged supporting the Houthis politically but denied arming the group.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri on Saturday dismissed the accusations that Tehran has provided the Houthis with weapons and intelligence, saying the rebel group has its “own tools” and acts “in accordance with its own decisions and capabilities”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies