US says it shot down Houthi missile in first attack since strikes on Yemen

US military says no injuries or damage caused by anti-ship cruise missile fired towards USS Laboon.

USS Laboon
Houthi rebels fired on the USS Laboon the Red Sea, according to US officials [Billy Ho/US Navy via Reuters]

The United States military has shot down a missile fired at one of its vessels by Iran-backed Houthis, officials have said, in the first known attack on US forces by the rebel group since Washington began its latest air strikes on Yemen.

A US fighter aircraft shot down the anti-ship cruise missile after it was fired from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen towards the USS Laboon in the Red Sea, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Sunday.

“The missile was shot down in vicinity of the coast of Hodeida by US fighter aircraft,” CENTCOM said. “There were no injuries or damage reported.”

The attack is the first to be acknowledged by the US since Washington and its allies on Friday began launching air and cruise missile strikes on Yemen in response to Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

The Houthis, which have yet to acknowledge the latest incident, have carried out repeated attacks on cargo ships that the group says are linked to Israel, in a show of support for Palestinians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza.

At least 26 vessels have been attacked by the Houthis since they seized the Israeli-linked Galaxy Leader vessel in November.

The attacks have forced some of the world’s largest shipping operators to redirect their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, severely disrupting global trade.

Traffic through the Red Sea, which normally facilitates the movement of $3bn-$9bn worth of cargo each day, has dropped by more than 40 percent since the start of the attacks.

Earlier on Sunday, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam accused the US of violating national sovereignty by flying aircraft close to Yemeni airspace and coastal areas, although it is not clear if the two incidents were linked.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies