US fires on Houthi anti-ship missile

The attack system posed an “imminent threat” to ships navigating the Red Sea, Washington said in a statement

The United States Navy destroyed an anti-ship missile in Houthi-held territory in Yemen early on Saturday, US Central Command said hours after an oil tanker carrying a cargo of Russian-originated fuel was attacked by the Iran-backed rebel group.

In a statement released early on Saturday, Washington said that it had struck the missile system that was “aimed into the Red Sea” and which it said had posed an “imminent threat” to ships navigating the region.

The strike came just hours after Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on the Marlin Luanda, an oil tanker operated by the Trafigura Group, which told media it had been carrying a cargo of Russian-originated fuel.

“US Central Command Forces conducted a strike against a Houthi anti-ship missile aimed into the Red Sea and which was prepared to launch,” the group, which oversees US strategic operations in the Middle East, said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter).

“US Forces identified the missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined it presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region,” adding that it “destroyed the missile in self-defense.”

The attack on the Marlin Luanda was the latest in a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea by Houthi militants in recent weeks. Since November, the rebel group has attacked or seized numerous ships navigating the waterway in what it says is an act of support for Palestinians amid Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas.

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Earlier on Friday, the USS Carney was targeted by a Houthi missile in the Gulf of Aden, and a British oil tanker was also struck, resulting in a fire. No injuries were reported.

Friday’s series of attacks on ships raises new concerns about international operators’ continued use of Red Sea shipping lanes. Since the Houthi attacks began last year, in addition to more recent airstrikes in response by the US and UK, oil tanker traffic in the busy waterway has declined, potentially threatening international trade.

However, a spokesman for the Houthis told Russia’s Izvestia newspaper earlier this month that Russian or Chinese-flagged ships would not be attacked as part of the rebel group’s campaign against US and UK vessels.

The latest attacks, meanwhile, also suggest that the US and UK airstrikes on Houthi targets in the past two weeks haven’t yet reduced the rebel group’s capabilities of threatening ships transiting the Red Sea.

“Deterrence is not a light switch,” US Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer told ABC last week with regard to Washington’s efforts to mitigate the Houthi threat. “We are taking out these stockpiles so they will not be able to conduct so many attacks over time,” he said.

Yemen’s Al-Masirah television station, which was founded and owned by the Houthi movement, said on Saturday that the strikes targeted the port of Ras Issa, which is the country’s primary oil export terminal, Reuters said.

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