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Navy destroyer, commercial ships, attacked by drones and missiles near Yemen

No injuries were reported after the USS Carney reportedly responded to help two commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney. (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy)

A U.S. Navy destroyer shot down several uncrewed aerial drones today in the Red Sea, including once in self defense, while coming to the aid of several commercial ships. The attacks all emanated from areas of Yemen controlled by the Houthi rebel group.

The USS Carney responded to three separate attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea Sunday. The incident, first reported by the Associated Press, started around 9:15 a.m. Sanaa time near the body of water linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, a major shipping route.  

Shortly after 9:15 a.m. local time, the USS Carney picked up a missile attack heading toward the British-owned commercial ship the Unity Explorer. Anti-ship ballistic missiles were en route to the vessel, which was flying under a Bahamian flag. The Navy ship moved to respond. Almost three hours later, while in international waters, the ship picked up a UAV launched from Yemen heading in its direction. The destroyer shot it out of the sky.

CENTCOM said that there were no injuries or damage to the destroyer, and that it is unclear if the Carney was the specific target of the UAVs. 

Shortly after that the Unity Explorer gave another distress call, saying they had been hit by a missile fired from Yemen. While responding, the USS Carney shot down another UAV. 

Another ship, the merchant vessel the Number 9, flying under a Panamanian flag, was hit by a missile in the Red Sea roughly three hours after that. No injuries were reported, although the ship was damaged.

The USS Carney responded to a third ship, the commercial bulk carrier Sophie II, after it issued a distress call at 4:30 p.m. local time. The ship had been hit by a missile, but not heavily damaged, according to CENTCOM. The Navy destroyer shot down another aerial drone that was in the area.

“These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world,” CENTCOM said in its statement. “We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran. The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners.”

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer the USS Carney has been patrolling around the Red Sea for the last two months. 

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree confirmed that an attack was done against commercial ships, but did not mention any military vessels being targeted or damaged. Saree said in a statement that the attack damaged two commercial ships, according to the Associated Press. According to him, one was damaged by a missile, the other by a drone. He identified attacks on the Unity Explorer and Number 9, but not the Sophie II. Saree repeated a Houthi statement that the group intends to block transit for Israeli ships through the Red Sea. 

Last week missiles were fired from Houthi areas in Yemen in the direction of the USS Mason, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, after it responded to a distress call from a commercial ship. The missile attack came after the USS Mason and partner ships chased down and captured five pirates without injury; the missiles fell 10 nautical miles short of the destroyer.

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The attack comes only a few days after the USS Carney shot down a drone launched by Houthis from Yemen. The destroyer was escorting two American commercial ships on Wednesday, Nov. 29 when the drone was spotted and taken out, according to U.S. Central Command. 

The destroyer has been involved in several incidents over the past two months. On Oct. 18, the USS Carney shot down multiple cruise missiles and drones over the Red Sea. They were, according to the Department of Defense, launched from Yemen in the direction of Israel.

The Houthis control much of Yemen and are engaged in a civil war with the internationally recognized government of the country. The group receives political and material support from Iran, but has been focused on internal Yemeni issues and maintaining its control of the nation. Following Houthi successes, Saudi Arabia and other nations launched an invasion of the country against the group, which has led to high civilian casualties. 

The Red Sea is a major commercial shipping hub. Two weeks ago Houthi rebels captured a British-owned and Japanese-operated ship in the sea, claiming it was tied to Israel. The seizure featured Houthis landing on the vessel via helicopter. 

This is a developing story.

Update 12/3/2023: This story has been updated with details on the incident from CENTCOM.

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