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Maersk denies Houthi claim container ship hit by Yemeni militia

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Danish shipping company Maersk on Friday denied a claim by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement that the militia carried out a drone strike on a Maersk vessel sailing towards Israel.

Containers are seen on the Maersk's container ship Maersk Gibraltar at the APM Terminals in the port of Algeciras, Spain January 19, 2023. Reuters/Jon Nazca

Danish shipping company Maersk on Friday denied a claim by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement that the militia carried out a drone strike on a Maersk vessel sailing towards Israel.

The Houthis earlier claimed it carried out a military operation against a Maersk container vessel, directly hitting it with a drone. The Houthis, who made the claim in a statement, did not release any evidence.

Maersk on Thursday said ship Maersk Gibraltar was targeted by a missile while travelling from Salalah, Oman, to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and that the crew and vessel were reported safe.

"The vessel was not hit," a Maersk spokesperson told Reuters in an emailed statement following the Houthi claim.

The incident took place near the Bad al-Mandab Strait linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, where Yemen's Houthis on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a Norwegian chemical tanker.

"The recent attacks on commercial vessels in the Bad al-Mandab Strait are extremely concerning. The current situation puts seafarer lives at risk and is unsustainable for global trade," Maersk said earlier.

Houthi military spokesperson Yehia Sareea late on Thursday said the militia had hit the Maersk container vessel with a drone after it refused to respond the Yemeni group's warnings.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Houthis shot at the Maersk vessel but missed and were unsuccessful in forcing the ship to stop. The official added that U.S. forces were not in area at the time of incident.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have attacked vessels in Red Sea shipping lanes and fired drones and missiles at Israel since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza over two months ago, heightening fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East.

The group which rules much of Yemen says its attacks are a show of support for the Palestinians and has vowed they will continue until Israel stops its offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Reporting by Louise Breusch Rasmussen, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Alexander Cornwell, and Idrees Ali. editing by Terje Solsvik, Kirsten Donovan, Cynthia Osterman and Deepa Babington

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