Houthis Target Ship Heading For Suez Canal As US Warship Shoots Down Drone

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rob Aylward/Released)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Houthi rebel group fired two missiles at an oil-laden commercial vessel but missed their target Wednesday morning, while a U.S. warship downed a suspected Houthi drone around the same time of the incident, The Associated Press reported.

No one was hurt in either event, the AP reported, citing U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. The apparent attacks represent an escalation of the Iran-backed Houthis’ pledge to oppose ships linked to Israel as the scope of targeting has expanded to include vessels close to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait heading toward the Suez Canal, without any clear association with the conflict in Israel.

The U.S. warship that shot down the drone was the U.S.S Mason, the AP reported. The same guided-missile destroyer rushed to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait on Monday to render assistance to another commercial vessel struck with an anti-ship cruise missile, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. (RELATED: ‘Enabled By Iran’: Pentagon Sheds Light On Drone Attacks Against Ships In Red Sea)

The Marshall Islands-flagged Ardmore Encounter, loaded with jet fuel from India, was traveling north in the Red Sea toward the Suez Canal, according to satellite data analyzed by the AP. It was the first time the Houthis have targeted an energy shipment destined to pass through the Suez, a crucial waterway that enables direct shipping between Europe and Asia and has become a geopolitical flashpoint on many occasions.

An armed security crew aboard the Ardmore Encounter apparently shot at men aboard skifs that had come up alongside the vessel with possible intent to board, according to data transmitted by the ship and the private intelligence firm Ambrey.

A group claiming to be Yemeni security forces ordered a vessel to reverse course toward Yemen, the U.K. Maritime Trade Organization said in a warning. An explosion was sighted 200 meters away, but the crew reported as safe.

“No one boarded the vessel and all crew members are safe and accounted for,” Ardmore Shipping Corp, which owns and operates the vessel, told the AP. “The vessel remains fully operational with no loss of cargo or damage on board.”

“Ardmore is in close contact with the relevant authorities and military assistance is now in the area providing support as required,” the statement continued.

Ardmore said the vessel was tasked with delivering fuel from a joint operation of Shell and India’s national oil company to either Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Gavle, Sweden, the AP reported.

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the attack. Previously, they said they would attack all commercial vessels destined for Israel to show solidarity with the Palestinian territories as Israel seeks to destroy the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza.

The Houthis on Saturday threatened to attack all ships heading toward Israel regardless of their ownership, according to Reuters. However, companies operating the commercial tankers from both Monday’s and Wednesday’s incidents denied their ships were heading to Israel.

CENTCOM did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for confirmation of the incident.

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