US military reports attacks on commercial ships in Red Sea

The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Carney underway in the Mediterranean Sea, June 30, 2017 (Photo: US Navy/Lieutenant (junior grade) Xavier Jimenez)

Four attacks occurred against three separate commercial vessels operating in international waters in the southern Red Sea on Monday, December 4, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a recent press release.

The three vessels that were targeted by the attacks off Yemen are connected to 14 separate nations. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney responded to the distress calls from the ships and provided assistance.

At approximately 09:15 local time on Monday, Carney detected an anti-ship ballistic missile attack fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Bahamas-flagged, UK-owned and -operated cargo vessel Unity Explorer, impacting in the vicinity of the vessel.

Carney was conducting a patrol in the Red Sea when it detected the attack.

At approximately 12:00, and while in international waters, Carney engaged and shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. The drone was headed toward Carney, although its specific target is not clear.

CENTCOM said it cannot assess at this time whether Carney was a target of the UAVs. There was no damage to the destroyer or injuries to personnel.

In a separate attack at approximately 12:35, the crew of Unity Explorer reported their ship was struck by a missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. Carney 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 Carney or Unity Explorer.

Unity Explorer reported minor damage from the missile strike.

At approximately 15:30, Panamanian-flagged, Bermuda- and UK-owned and -operated bulk carrier Number 9 was struck by a missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen while operating international shipping lanes in the Red Sea.

At approximately 16:30, the crew of the Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Sophie II sent a distress call stating their ship was struck by a missile. Carney again responded to the distress call and reported no significant damage.

While en route to render support, Carney shot down a UAV headed in its direction.

CENTCOM said these attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security and have jeopardised the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world.

CENTCOM said it also has every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran.

The command added that the United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners.

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