The US military has captured five attackers who seized an Israel-linked cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden amid missile attacks from Houthi-controlled Yemen.
The destroyer USS Mason responded on Sunday to an SOS call from a commercial tanker that had been taken over by armed assailants in the Gulf, US Central Command announced.
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The Liberian-flagged tanker, which had been hauling phosphoric acid, was identified as the Central Park by the vessel’s company. The ship is managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management firm, owned by Israel’s Ofer family.
The US military said the USS Mason, with help from allied ships, demanded that the commercial ship be released by the attackers.
“Subsequently, five armed individuals debarked the ship and attempted to flee via their small boat,” US Central Command said in a statement. “The Mason pursued the attackers resulting in their eventual surrender.”
The statement added that two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen in the general direction of the Mason and the Central Park, but landed about 10 nautical miles away from the vessels, resulting in no damage or injuries.
On Nov. 26, the USS MASON (DDG 87), with allied ships from our coalition counter-piracy task force (TF 151), and associated aircraft responded to a distress call from the M/V CENTRAL PARK, a commercial vessel, that they were under attack by an unknown entity. Upon arrival,… pic.twitter.com/ASmM3b0xrf
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) November 27, 2023
Yemen’s government in Aden blamed the country’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels for the attack. However, the rebels, who control the capital, Sanaa, did not acknowledge either the seizure or the missile attack.
Trouble at sea
The incident is the latest in a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since the war in Gaza broke out on October 7.
It followed the seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo ship by Houthi forces in the southern Red Sea last week.
The Houthis, who have also fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel, have promised to target more Israeli vessels.
Zodiac Maritime said in a statement that Central Park was involved in a suspected piracy incident while crossing international waters, approximately 54 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.
“Our priority is the safety of our 22 crew onboard. The Turkish-captained vessel has a multinational crew consisting of a crew of Russian, Vietnamese, Bulgarian, Indian, Georgian and Filipino nationals,” the statement added.
Zodiac Maritime also thanked “the coalition forces who responded quickly, protecting assets in the area and upholding international maritime law”.
Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations agency (UKMTO) said on Sunday it was aware of a possible attack in southwest Aden and called on other vessels to exercise caution.
The US has blamed Iran for unclaimed attacks on several vessels in the region in the past few years. Tehran has denied involvement.
A container ship managed by an Israeli-controlled company was hit by a suspected Iranian drone in the Indian Ocean, causing minor damage to the vessel but no injuries, a US defence official said on Saturday.