By Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A land-based cruise missile launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen struck a commercial tanker vessel, causing a fire and damage but no casualties, two U.S. defence officials told Reuters on Monday.
The attack on the tanker STRINDA took place about 60 nautical miles (111km) north of the Bab al-Mandab Strait about 2100 GMT, one of officials said. The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason was there and provided aid, the officials said.
The second official said the STRINDA was moving under its own power in the hours after the attack.
The chemical tanker is Norway flagged, and its Norwegian owner, Mowinckel Chemical Tankers, and manager Hansa Tankers could not be immediately reached for comment outside office hours.
The Iran-aligned Houthis have waded into the conflict – which has spread around the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7 – attacking vessels in vital shipping lanes and firing drones and missiles at Israel itself.
On Saturday, the Houthis said they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.
The STRINDA had loaded vegetable oil and biofuels in Malaysia and was headed for Venice, Italy, data from shiptracking firm Kpler showed.
It was not immediately clear whether the STRINDA had any ties to Israel.
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 – more than 1,000 miles from the Houthi seat of power in Sanaa.
The Houthis are one of several groups in the Iran-aligned “Axis of Resistance” that have been taking aim at Israeli and U.S. targets since their Palestinian ally Hamas attacked Israel.
During the first week of December, three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters, prompting a U.S. Navy destroyer to intervene.
The Houthis also seized last month a British-owned cargo ship that had links with an Israeli company.
The United States and Britain have condemned the attacks on shipping, blaming Iran for its role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.
Saudi Arabia has asked the United States to show restraint in responding to the attacks.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; additional reporting by Trixie Yap and Florence Tan; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gerry Doyle)