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British warship shoots down suspected attack drone over Red Sea

The HMS Diamond shot down the drone - the first time in decades that the Royal Navy has taken out an aerial target in anger

Barney Davis
Saturday 16 December 2023 12:57 GMT
British warship shoots down suspected attack drone over Red Sea

A Royal Navy destroyer warship has shot down a suspected attack drone over the Red Sea, the Defence Secretary has said.

The HMS Diamond was only sent to the region two weeks ago amid growing international concern about the threat to shipping.

The Type 45 destroyer was said to have destroyed the suspected attack drone targeting merchant shipping - with a Sea Viper missile.

It is believed to be the first time that the Royal Navy has shot down an aerial target in anger since the First Gulf War in 1991.

Grant Shapps said it was believed merchant shipping in the Red Sea was the intended target, in the latest such confrontation in the key global shipping route.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps speaks during a press conference (PA)

The Red Sea lies between north Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and connects the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal.

“One Sea Viper missile fired and successfully destroyed the target”, Mr Shapps said in a statement.

“The ship recently arrived in the region to bolster international efforts to maintain maritime security.

“The recent spate of illegal attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security in the Red Sea.

“The UK remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade.”

The Ministry of Defence has not said who was behind the attack.

But Yemen’s Houthis have been behind a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel in response to its war against Hamas in Gaza.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key said: “One sixth of the world’s commercial shipping passes through the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait and Red Sea.

“HMS Diamond deployed at short notice to the region from Portsmouth just two weeks ago and is already delivering effect together with our American, French and other allies and partners.

“The Royal Navy is committed to upholding the right to free use of the oceans and we do not tolerate indiscriminate threats or attacks against those going about their lawful business on the high seas.”

Earlier this month the US military said the Bahamas-flagged Unity Explorer, owned by a UK company, was among three commercial vessels targeted in an attack by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

On Friday Maersk, the world’s biggest shipping company, told all its vessels planning to pass through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea to “pause their journey until further notice” after a missile attack on a Liberian-flagged cargo ship.

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