Houthi rebels in Yemen fire missiles at US warship

It comes a week after a UAE civilian vessel was attacked by the rebels and has raised concerns about a growing risk to ships in one of the world’s most important waterways.

A handout image released by the US navy shows a guided-missile destroyer USS Mason. The US navy said that two missiles fired from Houthi-held territory in Yemen fell short of the US warship while it was patrolling the Red Sea. Navy Visual News Service (NVNS) / AFP
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Two missiles fired from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen missed a US warship which was patrolling the Red Sea, the US navy said on Monday.

The suspected attack on the USS Mason came a week after a UAE civilian vessel was attacked by the rebels and has raised concerns about a growing risk to ships in one of the world's most important waterways.

Also on Monday, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthis said it had intercepted two missiles.

One was fired towards a military base in Taif in central Saudi Arabia on Sunday, striking deeper then ever before in the latest of a series of more than a dozen missile attacks.

Another was launched at Marib in central Yemen, a base for pro-government militiamen and troops who have struggled to advance on the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.

The US navy said no American sailors were injured in Sunday's attack and no damage was done to the USS Mason, a guided missile destroyer sailing north of the Bab Al Mandeb strait.

Lt Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for US navy forces central command, said it was not clear if the vessel was specifically targeted, though the missiles were fired in its direction within an hour of each other from around 7pm.

The Houthis denied firing at the US warship but another spokeswoman for the US naval forces central command, Paula Dunn said the missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen.

“Both missiles impacted the water before reaching the ship,” said Ms Dunn.

On October 1, the Houthis launched a missile at a UAE civilian vessel while it was in the Bab Al Mandab strait, injuring crewmen. The UAE is a key member of a Saudi-led coalition that supports the internationally-recognised government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi. Since March last year the coalition has been fighting the Yemeni rebels, who are backed by the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and elements of the military still loyal to him.

Coalition warships have imposed a naval blockade on rebel-held ports along Yemen’s Red Sea coast allowing in only UN-approved aid shipments.

The US navy said on Monday that Washington remains “committed to ensuring freedom of navigation everywhere in the world”.

“We will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of our ships and our service members,” its spokeswoman said.

The missile fire comes after the Iran-backed rebels blamed the coalition for an air raid that killed more than 140 people and wounded at least 525 on Saturday at a funeral in Sanaa.

A day later, thousands marched through the streets of Sanaa to protest against the air strike — one of the deadliest single attacks in the civil war.

The Saudi foreign ministry said its UN mission sent a letter to the Security Council on Sunday, expressing the kingdom’s “deep regret of the reported attack” on the funeral. Saudi officials have promised to investigate the bombing.

Former president Mr Saleh called for mobilisation along the border with Saudi Arabia to avenge the funeral attack.

The Houthis swept into Sanaa in September 2014 and advanced across much of Yemen, forcing Mr Hadi’s government to flee to Aden.

The conflict has killed more than 6,700 people — almost two-thirds of them civilians — and displaced at least three million since the coalition launched military operations, according to the United Nations.

* Associated Press, Reuters