US Navy destroyer foils tanker hijacking in Gulf of Aden

The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason steams away from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys after completing an underway replenishment-at-sea in the Atlantic Ocean, July 17, 2021. (Photo: US Navy/Bill Mesta)

The US Department of Defense (DOD) has confirmed that a US Navy warship and naval vessels of partner nations responded to a distress call by the crew of a commercial ship that had been boarded by five armed individuals near Yemen over the weekend.

The Liberian-registered product tanker Central Park was boarded by five individuals who attempted to access the crew cabin, Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a meeting with the Pentagon Press Corps on Monday, November 27.

The crew of Central Park issued the distress call on the evening (local time) of Sunday, November 26. The distress call was responded to by the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (pictured), allied ships, and associated aircraft that are part of Combined Task Force 151, which conducts counter-piracy missions.

After the arrival of Mason and partners with CTF 151, task force personnel demanded the release of Central Park, Ryder said. The five armed individuals then disembarked the vessel and fled in a small boat.

After the five individuals fled, the destroyer sent out a visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team on the water that stopped the small boat. They detained the individuals before boarding the tanker and subsequently clearing it.

The Central Park crew was found to be safe following the incident, added Ryder.

While the identity of the five armed attackers was not yet confirmed at the time of the Pentagon news briefing, Ryder said initial indications are that the individuals are Somali. All five are currently being held aboard Mason.

Hours later, early in morning (Yemen local time) of Monday, two ballistic missiles were fired toward the general location of Mason and Central Park.

Ryder said initial indications were that the two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, toward the general location of Mason and Central Park.

The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden, approximately 10 nautical miles from the ships. Neither Mason nor Central Park were damaged by the missiles.

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