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Amid warnings to Houthis, US military downs another drone over Red Sea

TOPSHOT - Members of the Yemeni Coast Guard affiliated with the Houthi group patrol the sea as demonstrators march through the Red Sea port city of Hodeida in solidarity with the people of Gaza on January 4, 2024, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the militant Hamas group in Gaza. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
— Washington (AFP)

US military forces shot down a drone early Saturday over the Red Sea in international waters near several commercial vessels, the Pentagon said.

The incident came just days after a 12-nation group led by the US warned Huthi rebels in Yemen against continuing their attacks on Red Sea shipping.

The US Central Command said in a social media post Saturday that "an unmanned aerial vehicle launched from Iranian-backed Huthi-controlled areas of Yemen was shot down in self-defense" by the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

It said no one was hurt.

The incident occurred in the southern Red Sea "in the vicinity of multiple commercial vessels," it said.

The Laboon, part of a carrier strike group deployed to the region shortly after the Israel-Hamas war broke out, previously downed drones believed fired by the Huthi rebels.

The rebels have launched more than 100 drone and missile strikes toward targets in the Red Sea and Israel since the war erupted on October 7, according to Pentagon figures.

The Huthis say they are targeting Israel and Israeli-linked vessels to push for a stop to the offensive in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is battling Hamas militants.

The attacks are endangering a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade, prompting the United States to set up a multinational naval task force to protect Red Sea shipping.

On Wednesday, the US-led group jointly warned the Huthi rebels of unspecified consequences unless they immediately halt their sea attacks.

But Danish shipping giant Maersk, citing the highly volatile situation, said Friday that it would divert all vessels around Africa instead of using the Red Sea and Suez Canal for the "foreseeable future."