U.S. Navy Destroyer, Tanker Targeted by Ballistic Missiles off Yemeni Coast
The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed that two ballistic missiles were launched towards the USS Mason and a commercial tanker from Yemen early Monday morning.
The incident occurred shortly after the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer successfully intervened to free a commercial tanker, the Central Park, from armed individuals who had boarded it while it was transiting the Gulf of Aden.
The missiles, which were fired from areas controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, landed within ten nautical miles from both the USS Mason and the Liberia-flagged ship.
On Sunday, the USS Mason responded to a distress call from the Central Park after it came attack by unknown assailants. Working in conjunction with allied ships from the coalition counter-piracy task force (TF 151) and associated aircraft, the USS Mason successfully secured the release of the vessel.
During the operation, five armed individuals attempted to flee via a small boat but were pursued and eventually captured by the USS Mason. The five are now believed to be from Somalia.
In a statement, U.S. Central Command confirmed that at approximately 0141 local time on Monday morning, two ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, targeting the general location of the USS Mason and Central Park. The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden approximately ten nautical miles away from the ships and no damage or injuries were reported on either vessel.
“Maritime domain security is essential to regional stability. We will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure the safety and security of international shipping lanes,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, the commander of USCENTCOM.
The incident comes following threats from Houthi leaders against Israeli-linked ships in the region, which comes in the wake of Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Houthi’s are currently holding the Galaxy Leader car carrier, which was hijacked in the southern Red Sea on November 19. All 25 crew members are being held on board the ship. On November 24, the Maltese-flagged M/V CMA CGM SYMI was reportedly attacked by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the Indian Ocean, but did not sustain serious damage.
Central Park is a chemical tanker managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd, which is owned by Israel’s Ofer family.
“Our priority is the safety of our 22 crew onboard. The Turkish captained vessel has a multinational crew consisting of a crew of Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, Georgian and Filipino nationals,” Zodiac Maritime said in a statement.
However, a spokesperson for the Pentagon on Monday said the Central Park hijacking appears to have been carried out by Somali pirates, a somewhat surprising revelation considering it’s been years since Somali pirates have carried out attacks on shipping.
“We’re continuing to assess, but initial indications that these five individuals are Somali,” said Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder. “Clearly a piracy related incident,” he added.
USS Mason (DDG 87) departed its homeport at Naval Station Mayport for a scheduled deployment as part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group on October 13. It is worth noting that the strike group transited the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Arabian Gulf on Sunday, according to a CENTCOM statement.
Since Hamas’ brutal October 7 attack on Israel, U.S. Navy destroyers have shot down missiles and drones launched from Yemen on at least two other occasions.
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