Italy neutralises Houthi drone attack in the Red Sea

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian navy ship shot down a drone fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels and targeting a European cargo, the Italian defence ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The drone was intercepted "in the late morning" near the Bab-el-Mandeb strait at the southern end of the Red Sea, the ministry said.

It was flying toward the cargo ship and taken down while it was 5 kilometres (3.11 miles) away. It was similar to other drones used in previous Houthi attacks, it said.

The cargo was targeted by other drones and missiles, with one missile exploding in water near the commercial vessel, causing only superficial damage, the ministry said.

The Italian "Fasan" frigate and the cargo it was escorting are proceeding southwards on their planned route to exit from the Red Sea, the statement added.

Italy is part of an EU naval mission, dubbed Eunavfor Aspides, launched in February to protect shipping in the Red Sea, a major trade route.

Iran-backed Houthi militants have repeatedly launched drones and missiles against international commercial shipping in the area, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians against Israel's military actions in Gaza.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, Editing by Bill Berkrot)