The UK Defence Secretary has condemned an “outrageous and unlawful” attack in the Red Sea which saw a British-owned ship come under attack.
Grant Shapps said Britain is committed to protecting “maritime security” and ensuring “regional stability” after the drone and missile strike on Sunday.
The US military said the Bahamas-flagged Unity Explorer, owned by a UK company, was among three commercial vessels targeted in an assault by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
US military Central Command said the Unity Explorer sustained minor damage.
I strongly condemn the outrageous and unlawful attacks on ships by Iran backed Houthi militants.
The UK is committed to protecting maritime security & deterring escalation, with HMS Diamond deploying to the region as part of the UK’s efforts to ensure regional stability.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 4, 2023
Two other ships registered in Panama were also hit by missiles, with the Number 9 reporting some damage and the Sophie II suffering no significant damage, according to Central Command.
A military statement said guided-missile destroyer USS Carney shot down three drones after responding to calls for assistance.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Shapps said: “I strongly condemn the outrageous and unlawful attacks on ships by Iran backed Houthi militants.
“The UK is committed to protecting maritime security & deterring escalation, with HMS Diamond deploying to the region as part of the UK’s efforts to ensure regional stability.”
According to reports by the Associated Press, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attack on the Unity Explorer and one of the other attacks.
US Central Command said the attacks represented a “direct threat” to maritime security and commerce.
It said: “We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran.”
Yemen’s Houthis have been launching 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.
Earlier in November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship also linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen.
Missiles landed near another US warship last week after it assisted a vessel linked to Israel that was briefly seized by gunmen.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We condemn the attack on commercial shipping in the Red Sea by Houthi militants.
“As we’ve previously said, Iran has long provided political and military support to Houthi militants and it bears responsibility for the actions of its proxies and partners.
“These waters are vital routes for global trade and incidents like these show the importance of the Royal Navy’s presence in the region.”
Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond was already heading to the region to bolster the navy’s presence there.