Missile attack aimed at US Navy in Red Sea

By Dan Lamothe

The US destroyer USS Mason sails in the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt. Photo / AP
The US destroyer USS Mason sails in the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt. Photo / AP

At least one missile was fired from rebel-held territory in Yemen at US Navy ships in the Red Sea today, marking the second time in four days that such an attack has occurred, US defence officials said.

The attack was again aimed at the USS Mason, a guided-missile destroyer that also came under fire on Monday, said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.

The coastal defence cruise missile was launched from south of the coastal city of Al Hudaydah, in an area of western Yemen held by the Houthis.

The rebel group pushed the central government out of power in the capital city of Sana'a in 2014, and has resisted US-backed efforts by Saudi Arabia to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power.

US military officials were seeking additional details about the latest attack. One defence official said that the missile fell short of the Mason.

The ship deployed countermeasures, but it was not immediately clear whether they had an effect.

"Those who threaten our forces should know that US commanders retain the right to defend their ships, and we will respond to this threat at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner," Cook said.

On Monday, two other missiles were launched from Yemen at the Mason and the USS Ponce, an amphibious ship used as forward staging base.

In that case, the first missile was launched while the ships were at least 20km away from Yemen's shore in international waters near the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a waterway between Yemen and Djibouti that is heavily trafficked by oilers.

Another ship, the HSV-2 Swift, was rocked by an explosion on October2, causing near-catastrophic damage.

The Swift, once a catamaran-style high-speed vessel in the US Navy, was in use by the Emiratis when it was hit in the Bab Al Mandeb strait.

Video of the strike published online shows the ship engulfed in a fireball.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack on the Swift, but denied launching the missiles at the Mason on Monday.

But Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday that "the facts certainly point" to the Houthis being involved.

Video showed a fireball engulfing the Swift. Photo / YouTube
Video showed a fireball engulfing the Swift. Photo / YouTube

The missiles were launched at the US ships after airstrikes on the funeral of a Houthi rebel leader in Sanaa killed more than 140 people and wounded hundreds more on Sunday.

US defence officials said yesterday that it is all but certain that the Saudis carried out the strike.

The Saudis have waged an air war against the Houthis since March 2015, carrying out hundreds of airstrikes.

The United States has backed the effort, but slowly backed away from it in recent months as concerns rise about the number of civilians killed. The death toll is close to 4000.

A White House spokesman, Ned Price, said on Sunday that the Obama Administration was "deeply disturbed" by reports of the strikes on the funeral, and was launching an immediate review of US support for the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthis.

The Pentagon has provided logistical support, including aerial refuelling, and intelligence that can be used for targeting to the Saudis.

In recent months, however, they have dramatically scaled back that effort almost exclusively to refueling, citing concerns for how the Saudis have waged their war in Yemen.

- Washington Post

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 24 Mar 2017 10:21:18 Processing Time: 1022ms