US Warship Downs Suspected Houthi Drones After Attacks on 3 Commercial Vessels: CENTCOM

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
December 3, 2023International
US Warship Downs Suspected Houthi Drones After Attacks on 3 Commercial Vessels: CENTCOM
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in Souda Bay, Greece, in a file photo. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge/U.S. Navy via AP)

Several commercial vessels were attacked on Dec. 3 in the Red Sea, the Pentagon confirmed.

“Today, there were four attacks against three separate commercial vessels operating in international waters in the southern Red Sea. These three vessels are connected to 14 separate nations,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Over the course of around five hours, the Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer USS Carney responded to multiple distress calls from the ships and provided assistance, while also taking preventative action against UAVs launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen toward the U.S. warship.

The USS Carney detected the first attack around 9:15 a.m. local time, when an anti-ship ballistic missile attack was fired from “Houthi controlled areas of Yemen toward the MV Unity Explorer, impacting in the vicinity of the vessel.”

The U.S. warship responded to provide assistance. The Unity Explorer is a Bahamas flagged, U.K. owned and operated, bulk cargo ship crewed by sailors from two nations.

Then, at approximately 12 p.m., the USS CARNEY engaged and shot down a UAV launched from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen headed for its position in international waters.

“We cannot assess at this time whether the Carney was a target of the UAVs,” CENTCOM said. “There was no damage to the U.S. vessel or injuries to personnel.”

A second attack from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen came at 12:35 p.m., when the Unity Explorer reported being struck by a missile. The Carney again responded to the distress call.

“While assisting with the damage assessment, Carney detected another inbound UAV, destroying the drone with no damage or injuries on the Carney or Unity Explorer. Unity Explorer reports minor damage from the missile strike,” the U.S. command said.

Two more vessels—the Panamanian flagged, Bermuda and U.K. owned and operated bulk carrier MV Number 9, and the Panamanian flagged bulk carrier MV Sophie II, crewed by sailors from eight countries—were both struck by a missile later in the afternoon at 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. respectively. The Carney responded to distress calls from both ships.

According to CENTCOM, both attacks were missiles that were “fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen.”

“These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world. We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran. The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners,” CENTCOM said.

The British military said earlier on Dec. 3 there had been a suspected drone attack and explosions in the Red Sea, it was reported.

A military spokesman for the Houthis, Yahya Saree, said via a Yemeni state-run news outlet that a vessel was hit by a missile and the second by a drone while in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that links the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. He described the ships as allegedly ignoring warnings from Houthi officials prior to the attack.

“It is enough pride and honor for us in Yemen that we have taken an honorable position that will be immortalized in history in supporting Gaza and Palestine, waging the battle of confrontation with the Zionist enemy,” he claimed, referring to Israel.

The Houthi group, which has long been backed by Iran, also launched “painful strikes” on Israel ships “with ballistic and winged missiles and drones,” said Mr. Saree, who was referred to by state media as a brigadier general.

“The Yemeni armed forces continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red Sea (and Gulf of Aden) until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops,” Mr. Saree said, according to The Associated Press. “The Yemeni armed forces renew their warning to all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis that they will become a legitimate target if they violate what is stated in this statement.”

The official, however, didn’t elaborate on the attack, including whether the target was an American warship. But he suggested that the attack was in response to the Israel–Hamas conflict, which erupted after Hamas launched a series of terrorist attacks against Israel on Oct. 7, leaving about 1,200 civilians dead. Israel has since waged a significant bombing campaign against Hamas, while officials in Gaza have claimed more than 10,000 people have died so far.

“We will continue the battle of confrontation with the forces of aggression and tyranny, and we will move forward on the path of victory for our homeland and our people and for our nation’s just issues, most notably the Palestinian issue,” said Mr. Saree, according to Yemeni state-backed media.

The Houthis, a Shia group that was taken off the U.S. designated terrorist list by the U.S. Department of State in 2021, have been launching a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel amid the war.

Notably, the USS Carney had previously shot down several drones and missiles, U.S. Central Command said in a statement issued last week. The warship was sent to the region on Oct. 8 in response to Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

In November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship also linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The rebels still hold the vessel near the port city of Hodeida. Missiles also landed near another U.S. warship last week after it assisted a vessel linked to Israel that had briefly been seized by gunmen.

However, the Houthis hadn’t directly targeted the Americans for some time, further raising the stakes in the growing maritime conflict. In 2016, the United States launched Tomahawk cruise missiles that destroyed three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory to retaliate for missiles being fired at U.S. Navy ships at the time.

Since the start of the Israel conflict, U.S. forces have come under attack in the Middle East as several Iran-aligned groups have fired rockets at military bases housing troops in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, global shipping had increasingly been targeted as the Israel–Hamas war threatens to become a wider regional conflict even as a truce briefly halted fighting and Hamas exchanged hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. However, the collapse of the truce and the resumption of punishing Israeli airstrikes and its ground offensive there had raised the risk of the seaborne attacks resuming.

Pentagon officials didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times