A U.S. Navy destroyer shot down several uncrewed aerial vehicles over the Red Sea today amid a series of attacks launched from Yemen. The engagements came only days after the United States announced a multinational task force meant to counter attacks on commercial ships in the area.
The USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot down four UAVs launched from Yemen toward the ship. The attacks happened between 3 p.m.-8 p.m. local time, according to U.S. Central Command. Shortly after, CENTCOM said, two commercial ships were attacked by UAVs. The M/V Blaamanen, owned by and flying a Norwegian flag, narrowly avoided being hit by a drone, while the Gabon-owned tanker M/V Saibaba, flying under an Indian flag, was hit by a drone. No injures were reported, and the USS Laboon sailed to help them both.
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Meanwhile two anti-ship ballistic missiles were reportedly fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen into shipping lanes in the southern Red Sea. However they did not hit any ship in the area. According to U.S. Central Command, these are the 14th and 15th attacks on commercial ships in the area in the last two months.
The USS Laboon previously entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar on Dec. 11, according to the U.S. Navy.
The Houthis, the rebel group that has control of much of Yemen and is fighting the internationally recognized government and Saudi Arabia. Iran provides political and material support to the Houthi movement, which had previously fought Yemen’s ousted long-time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Department of Defense has repeatedly called the Houthis proxies for Iran. This week a White House spokesperson accused Iran of being “deeply involved” in attacks on commercial ships.
Since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7, there have been a number of rocket and drone attacks at vessels in the Red Sea, launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. American ships — often another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Carney — have repeatedly responded to distress calls from commercial ships and shot down drones and cruise missiles. No American troops have been harmed. The Houthis have said it will continue to shut down transit until Israel ends the war. Several commercial shipping firms have already said they will not transit through the Red Sea, which connects to the important Suez Canal, as a result of the attacks.
Earlier this week the United States announced a coalition task force for patrolling the Red Sea to allow freedom of navigation, dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian. Initially including just 10 nations, that has doubled since then, although some of the announced members have given some qualifications for their involvement. Spain, named as one of the original members, has said it will only participate in operations led by NATO or approved by the European Union, while Italy said its plans to send a ship in the area was planned before the task force was announced. Despite the locality, only one Middle Eastern nation is involved, Bahrain.
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