US military destroys Houthi anti-ship missile after attack on British-linked oil tanker

The US destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile in Yemen, hours after an attack that left a fire raging on a British-linked oil tanker.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps condemned the assault on the vessel as “intolerable”, while a government spokesperson said Britain and its allies, which include the US, reserved “the right to respond appropriately”.

Announcing the latest strike, the US said the missile had been aimed towards the Red Sea and was ready to launch.

It presented an “imminent threat” to merchant vessels and American navy ships, US central command said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, adding that it had acted “in self-defence”.

Earlier this week, Rishi Sunak said the UK would not hesitate to launch further airstrikes against the Houthi rebels if attacks on ships in the Red Sea continued.

His warning came hours after RAF jets took part in a second wave of joint US-UK action on Monday night.

After the first set of strikes by Britain and the US, the foreign secretary, Lord Cameron, said that the decisive action had also sent a very clear message to Iran.

The Houthis claim their attacks have been prompted by the war in Gaza. But the UK has rejected the suggestion, pointing out that the group have hit ships with no links to Israel.

Houthi fighters during a rally against the US government designating Houthis as a terror group and against the US-UK air strikes (AP)
Houthi fighters during a rally against the US government designating Houthis as a terror group and against the US-UK air strikes (AP)

Despite the strikes, the Houthis have vowed bloody revenge and have continued to attack vessels in the Red Sea and beyond.

After the oil tanker attack, Mr Shapps described it as an “intolerable and illegal” assault on maritime shipping and on innocent people and global trade. “It is our duty to protect freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and we remain as committed to that cause as ever,” he added.

Overnight a UK government spokesperson said it was aware of reports that the M/V Marlin Luanda had sustained damage from an attack.

They added: “We have been clear that any attacks on commercial shipping are completely unacceptable and that the UK and our allies reserve the right to respond appropriately.”

The Ministry of Defence said the UK was not involved in the latest US strike.

Efforts to put out the fire on the British-linked oil tanker continued through the night on Thursday.

The ship, operated on behalf of trading giant Trafigura, sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands but is managed by Oceonix Services Ltd, a company registered in the UK.

In a statement released on Saturday, Trafigura said the safety of its crew remained the “utmost priority”.