The British warship HMS Diamond shot down a drone last night that allegedly "targeted merchant ships" in the Red Sea, Defense Minister Grant Shapps said on Saturday.Shapps specified that "a Sea Viper missile was fired that successfully destroyed the target," of which no further details have been given.

The British minister recalled that the ship arrived in the area in mid-November to join international efforts aimed at maintaining security in that important waterway. "The recent spate of illegal attacks poses a direct threat to international trade and maritime security in the Red Sea," the conservative politician said.

The UK "remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade," he added. Admiral Ben Key pointed out that "one-sixth of the world's commercial shipping passes through the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea."

The deployment of HMS Diamond just two weeks ago "is already yielding results" in operations with other allies such as France and the United States, he said. The last time the British Royal Navy shot down an aerial target in combat was in the First Gulf War in 1991, when the Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester destroyed an Iraqi Silkworm missile intended for a U.S. warship.

Although London has not specified the origin of the drone, in recent weeks maritime security in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait has been severely affected by attacks by Yemen's Houthis on ships with Israeli links transiting off their country's coast.

On Friday, shipping groups Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd announced the temporary suspension of navigation through the Suez Canal and that sea after several ships were previously attacked.