Houthis target US destroyer in latest round of rocket attacks

Houthis target US destroyer in latest round of rocket attacks; Attack on British merchant ship – CBS News

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired a missile at a U.S. warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden on Friday, forcing it to fire the projectile. They also hit a British ship while their aggressive attacks on maritime traffic continued.

The attack on the destroyer USS Carney marked a further escalation of the largest naval confrontation the U.S. Navy has faced in the Middle East in decades.

The anti-ship ballistic missile was fired from Houthi-controlled Yemen at the USS Carney at around 1:30 p.m. local time on Friday, US Central Command reported. The missile was fired from the Carney and caused no damage or injuries.

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Just over six hours later, on Friday evening, the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Operations, which oversees waterways in the Middle East, admitted that a ship in the Gulf of Aden had been hit by a missile and was on fire.

The anti-ship ballistic missile hit the M/V Marlin Luanda – which is British-owned but flying the Marshall Islands flag – at around 7:45 p.m. local time, CENTCOM reported.

The Marlin Luanda was carrying naphtha – a highly flammable liquid-hydrogen mixture derived from distilled petroleum and often used in solvents – and the missile attack caused a “major fire” in one of the ship's cargo holds, CENTCOM reported Saturday.

The Marlin Luanda's crew “exhausted their organic firefighting capability,” CENTCOM said, and the USS Carney responded along with French and Indian naval vessels and helped extinguish the fire.

According to CENTCOM, no one aboard the Marlin Luanda, which had a crew of 22 Indian nationals and one Bangladeshi national, was injured in the attack.

“Thanks to this rapid response from the U.S., Indian and French navies, the fire is now extinguished,” CENTCOM said in a news release. “There were no injuries in the attack, the ship remains seaworthy and has returned to its previous course.”

The attack on the Carney, meanwhile, was the first time the Houthis had directly attacked a U.S. warship since the rebels began their attacks on ships in October, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity because of no authorization was given to discuss the incident.

Houthi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree did not acknowledge the Carney attack, but claimed the rocket attack on the merchant ship set it on fire and identified the vessel as the Marlin Luanda.

The Houthis' now direct attacks on US warships are the most aggressive escalation of their campaign in the Red Sea since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. The U.S. has sought to temper its descriptions of the Houthis' attacks, saying it was difficult to determine exactly what the Houthis wanted to attack and in part trying to prevent the conflict from escalating into a larger regional war.

The U.S. military has been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis since Jan. 11 to weaken their capabilities after the militant group attacked commercial ships for several weeks.

The US has launched multiple rounds of two different types of airstrikes – those that hit a wider range of targets, such as storage sites and radar sites, and also preemptive strikes that target Houthi missiles as they are loaded onto launchers in preparation for an attack to prepare. This second category – colloquially referred to as “whack-a-mole” attacks – now occurs almost daily.

But these US attacks did not appear to deter the Houthis. On Wednesday, the Houthis fired anti-ship ballistic missiles at the US-flagged, US-operated merchant ship Maersk Detroit. The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Gravely fired two missiles and a third fell into the water. There was no evidence of damage or injuries in the attack.

It is important to recognize Friday's attack as a direct attack on a U.S. warship, said Brad Bowman, senior director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“Now they're finally calling a spade a spade and saying, yes, they're trying to attack our forces, they're trying to kill us,” he said.

While the moderation of language and response was aimed at preventing a larger war, it had the opposite effect of further emboldening the Houthis, Bowman said.

The attacks were the latest attacks by rebels in their campaign against ships sailing through the Red Sea and surrounding waters, which has disrupted global trade during Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Yemen's Houthi rebels take part in a rally and parade in vehicles denouncing US-led airstrikes on Yemen on the outskirts of Sana'a, Yemen. January 25, 2024. Getty Images

Since November, Houthi rebels have repeatedly attacked ships in the Red Sea, claiming they were retaliating for Israel's Gaza offensive against Hamas. But they have often targeted ships with weak or no clear ties to Israel, endangering shipping on a key route for global trade between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Since the start of the airstrikes campaign, the rebels now say they will also target American and British ships.

The top commander of the U.S. Navy in the Middle East told the Associated Press on Monday that the Houthi attacks were the worst since the so-called tanker war of the 1980s. It culminated in a day-long naval battle between Washington and Tehran in which the US Navy accidentally shot down an Iranian passenger plane in 1988, killing 290 people.

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