The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said Iran-aligned Houthi rebels hijacked a ship south of the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia's state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki on Monday that Houthis seized the ship while towing a South Korean oil rig on Sunday.
Al-Malki said that the "attack" threatens important shipping routes in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which is used for oil shipments from the Gulf to Europe as well as goods from Asia to Europe.
"On Sunday, during the sailing of the Rabigh-3 tugboat in the southern Red Sea, it was hijacked and subjected to armed robbery by terrorist elements attached to the Houthi militia," said al-Maliki.
He did not say which country the tugboat belonged to or how many crew members were aboard the seized vessel.
According to the tracking website Marine Traffic, Rabigh-3's home port is in the western Saudi city of Jeddah and it sails under the Kingdom flag.
"Countries of aggression"?
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior rebel official, said: "Yemeni Coast Guard … checks if [the vessel] belongs to the countries in aggression or to South Korea, in which case it will be released after completed judicial proceedings. The crews are well treated. We assure everyone not to worry about the crew. "
Al Jazeera & # 39; s Mohammed al-Attab, reporting from the capital Sanaa, quoted a Houthi source saying that South Korea has demanded that its rig and crew be released.
"The Houthis said they would release it after doing paperwork to confirm that this oil rig belongs to South Korea. The source told me that seizures are a common measure they perform when they find any foreign ship in the Yemeni regional waters, "he said.
Oil strike "undoubtedly sponsored by Iran": Saudi Arabia
The Houthis have previously targeted oil tankers and military vessels belonging to Saudi Arabia and its partners in the military coalition fighting in the Yemen war since 2015.
In a meeting with the South Korean ambassador to Yemen, Yemeni Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdullah al-Hadrami strongly condemned the seizure of the vessel and demanded its immediate release, according to a statement from the government.
"These provocative and illegal measures will adversely affect the freedom of international navigation," he said. ] Gerry Northwood – from the international maritime security company MAST – said that the rebels' ship seizures show their strength in "rebel-type warfare", especially their ability to operate in the maritime e-domain.
"The Houthis have shown in recent years during the war that they have the ability to do things and disrupt, be it missile attacks, laying mines or in this case taking a ship. " The fact that the Saudis do not necessarily can protect ships all the time in this area is a pretty serious issue for them, "Northwood told Al Jazeera.
The Saudi alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis after the group removed the internationally recognized government from power in Sanaa.
The Houthi forces have been driven off most of Yemen's coast during the conflict but still hold Hodeidah, the country's largest Red Sea port and the base of the group's navy. of Bab al-Mandeb's Sound at the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the world's most traveling oil tankers.  SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies