In a tense escalation of tensions in the strategically important Gulf of Aden, two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen at a US warship on Monday, hours after the navy responded to a distress call for a seized tanker.
The incident highlights the volatile security situation in the region and the potential for misjudgment or escalation. The tanker, identified as the "Central Park", was carrying phosphoric acid when its crew called for help and said they were "under attack by an unknown entity".
The USS Mason, a guided-missile destroyer, and allied ships from an anti-piracy task force operating in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia responded to the distress call and "requested the release of the ship." "Subsequently, five armed persons disembarked from the ship and attempted to escape in a small boat," the statement said, adding that the USS Mason chased the attackers, resulting in their eventual surrender.
Hours later, at 1:41 a.m. local time on Monday, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen "at the general location" of the USS Mason and Central Park. The missiles reportedly fell into the bay about 10 nautical miles from the ship.
The USS Mason was completing a response to a distress call from the ship Central Park at the time of the missile launch. No damage or injuries were reported from Central Park or Mason.
Rebels claimed responsibility for the attack
The Houthi rebels, who control much of Yemen, claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks, saying they were in retaliation for US support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen.
The US military condemned the attacks, calling them "a blatant attempt to endanger the lives of innocent seafarers and disrupt the free flow of commerce". The incident highlights the ongoing instability in Yemen, which has been engulfed in civil war since 2014.
The conflict has left millions of people displaced and created a severe humanitarian crisis. The Gulf of Aden is a critical shipping lane and any disruption to maritime traffic could have a significant impact on the global economy.
The US has vowed to take action against those responsible for the missile attacks. However, the situation remains unstable, and the risk of further escalation remains high.