US probe ‘missile threat’ off Yemen
The US Navy is investigating a possible missile attack from Yemen on a group of American warships in the Red Sea.
The Red Sea and the nearby strategic Bab El Mandeb strait, a crucial chokepoint for international shipping and crude oil, has been the scene of what the US describes as at least two missile attacks from rebel-held territory in Yemen. American forces have fired back once with Tomahawk missiles, destroying mobile radar positions in the first shots fired by the US in anger in the stalemated conflict.
In the latest incident, a group of American warships in the Red Sea on Saturday night “had indications of a possible inbound missile threat and deployed appropriate defensive measures”, said Captain Paula Dunn, a spokeswoman for US Navy Forces Central Command. She said in a statement that all ships and sailors were safe, without elaborating.
An American defence official said yesterday that one of the ships saw on radar what sailors believed to be missiles being fired on it out of Yemen at night.
Yemen’s Shia rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies did not immediately comment on the incident on Saturday. Previously, the Houthi-controlled SABA news agency ran dispatches denying rebels ever fired on American warships.
Admiral John Richardson, the Navy’s top officer, said earlier on Saturday the destroyer USS Mason appeared “to have come under attack”. The Mason, an Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyer whose home port is Norfolk, Virginia, has been targeted twice before by missile fire out of Yemen, according to the Navy.
Also known to be in the Red Sea near the Mason are the USS Nitze and the USS Ponce.
Previously, an UAEleased Swift boat came under rocket fire near the same area as the Mason and sustained serious damage. The vessel was carrying humanitarian aid and had a crew of civilians.
Yemen has been at war since September 2014, when the Houthis swept into the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led coalition launched a campaign against the Houthis in March 2015.
The US has been providing logistical and intelligence support to the coalition, but had begun to withdraw its support in recent weeks over civilian casualties from the air campaign.
POSSIBLE TARGET: The USS Mason