US military destroys Houthi antiship missile after oil tanker attack

US says missile presented an ‘imminent threat’ to merchant ship and US Navy vessels in the region.

Houthi protest
A Houthi supporter holds an RPG launcher during a protest against US-led attacks on the group's targets, near Sanaa, Yemen, January 25, 2024 [Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

The United States military says it destroyed a Houthi antiship missile in Yemen that was aimed into the Red Sea and ready to launch after the Iran-aligned group attacked a British oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden.

The missile “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region”, the US Central Command said on Saturday in a statement on X.

The Houthi group has launched drones and missiles at shipping in the Red Sea since November 19 in response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

The US attack followed a strike by the Houthi rebels on a British fuel tanker on Friday evening.

The Marlin Luanda, owned by the Singapore-based Trafigura trading firm, was damaged but no injuries were reported and the US Navy ship USS Carney was providing assistance, the US military said.

“We are pleased to confirm that all crew on board the Marlin Luanda are safe and the fire in the cargo tank has been fully extinguished. The vessel is now sailing towards a safe harbour,” Trafigura said in an update.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree, in a televised statement, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its forces will continue to attack ships in the Red Sea until Israel’s “aggression” against Palestinians in Gaza stops.

Al Masirah, a Houthi-run satellite news channel, reported on Saturday that the US and the United Kingdom launched two air raids that hit the port of Ras Issa, Yemen’s main oil export terminal, in Hodeidah province.

Houthi attacks have so far been concentrated in the narrow strait of Bab el-Mandeb, which connects the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea. Approximately 50 ships sail through the strait daily, heading to and from the Suez Canal – a key artery for global maritime trade.

Some of the world’s largest shipping companies have suspended operations in the region, instead sending their vessels on the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, slowing trade between Asia and Europe.

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The US and the UK have launched multiple rounds of air raids since the Houthi attacks began targeting missile depots and launcher sites in Yemen.

Since the air strike campaign began, the rebels say they will target US and UK ships as well.

On Wednesday, two US-flagged ships carrying cargo for its defence and state departments came under attack by the Houthis, forcing an escorting US Navy warship to shoot some of the projectiles down.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies