Missiles fired near USS Mason from Houthi-held Yemen, US military says

US destroyer had been successfully releasing tanker Central Park from attackers in Gulf of Aden

US destroyer USS Mason, pictured in 2021. Two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen towards the ship, the US military said. Reuters
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The US military said two ballistic missiles were fired near the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason after the seizure of a tanker off the coast of Yemen.

“Two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen towards the general location of the USS Mason and the Central Park. The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden approximately 10 nautical miles (18.5km) from the ships,” US Central Command said on social media platform X.

It said the USS Mason, which is part of the Dwight D Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, was concluding its response to the Central Park distress call.

No injuries or damage to either vessel was reported.

This came after attackers seized and later released the Liberian-flagged Central Park, linked to Israel, off the coast of Yemen on Sunday, authorities said.

Yemen's internationally recognised government blamed Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for the attack, which followed at least two other recent maritime attacks linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

The vessel, managed by Zodiac Maritime, was seized in the Gulf of Aden, said the company, the US and British military and private intelligence firm Ambrey.

The Pentagon told AP the vessel was “safe”, without saying what happened to the attackers.

However, Reuters reported that five armed people tried to escape on a fast boat but were pursued by the US warship and eventually surrendered.

American forces aboard the USS Mason responded to the distress call from the Central Park, two US defence officials said on the condition of anonymity.

Early on Monday morning, Zodiac said the vessel carrying phosphoric acid and its crew of 22 sailors from Bulgaria, Georgia, India, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam were “unharmed”.

“We would like to thank the coalition forces who responded quickly, protecting assets in the area and upholding international maritime law,” the company said.

Zodiac described the vessel as being owned by Clumvez Shipping, though other records directly linked Zodiac as the owner.

London-based Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group.

UK corporate records listed two men with the last name Ofer as a current and former director of Clumvez Shipping, including Daniel Guy Ofer, who is also a director at Zodiac Maritime.

Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have controlled the capital, Sanaa, since 2014, did not comment on the seizure.

Yemen's Southern Transitional Council condemned what it called “acts of terrorist piracy”.

“The recent Houthi terrorist seizure of international vessels is an alarming threat to regional and international security and stability which directly threatens Yemen's and the world's food security,” it said.

“The Southern Transitional Council strongly condemns these acts of terrorist piracy and calls on the international community to shoulder the grave responsibility of confronting and deterring these threats with the utmost resolve.

“Houthi actions and persistent terrorist behaviour continue to obstruct all peace efforts in the south and Yemen, as well as at the regional level.”

Yemen's internationally recognised government, based in Aden, said: “The Yemeni government has renewed its denunciation of the acts of maritime piracy carried out by the terrorist Houthi militias with the support of the Iranian regime, the most recent of which was the hijacking of the Central Park.”

The US Navy has stepped up naval patrols in and out of the Red Sea in the past month, sending guided missile destroyers the USS Thomas Hudner, USS Carney and USS Mason, as well as its largest aircraft carriers.

All have either intercepted Houthi missiles or been fired upon by the group.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt, capable of carrying up to 90 fighter bombers and helicopters, has also transited the Red Sea during the period, as has the Dwight D Eisenhower, which has the same capacity.

Both are protected by smaller vessels with layers of air defences. The USS Bataan, a helicopter carrier that can launch and dock patrol boats, has also been in the Red Sea this month.

Updated: November 27, 2023, 9:29 AM