U.S.-Owned Container Ship Struck by Houthi Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile

January 15, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: MilitaryHouthiASBMAnti-Ship Ballistic MissileYemen

U.S.-Owned Container Ship Struck by Houthi Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile

The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed on Monday that a Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned and operated cargo ship in the Red Sea was struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthi militants.

 

The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed on Monday that a Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned and operated cargo ship in the Red Sea was struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by the Houthi militants. 

No injuries or significant damage were reported on the M/V Gibraltar Eagle.

 

The U.S.-owned bulk carrier was reported to have been transiting in the westbound lane of the International Recommended Transit Corridor, a shipping route through the Gulf of Aden and into the Red Sea.

"On Jan. 15 at approximately 4 p.m. (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and struck the M/V Gibraltar Eagle, a Marshall Islands-flagged, U.S.-owned and operated container ship. The ship has reported no injuries or significant damage and is continuing its journey," CENTCOM announced via a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

"Earlier in the day, at approximately 2 p.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Forces detected an anti-ship ballistic missile fired toward the Southern Red Sea commercial shipping lanes. The missile failed in flight and impacted on land in Yemen. There were no injuries or damage reported."

Images and even a video have widely circulated on social media that showed a cargo ship on fire – but it was soon reported those images were from 2021, and didn't involve a missile strike. Misinformation continues to be a problem on social media, but it is unclear if this was part of a disinformation campaign or a video presented out of context.

Monday's attacks on commercial shipping came a day after CENTCOM said it had shot down an anti-ship cruise missile fired by the Houthi rebels in Yemen toward the American warship USS Laboon (DDG-58), which was operating in the Southern Red Sea.

"The missile was shot down in vicinity of the coast of Hudaydah by U.S. fighter aircraft. There were no injuries or damage reported," CENTCOM announced on Sunday.

It was the first acknowledged attack by the Houthis on a U.S. warship since the U.S. and U.K. militaries started striking the Houthis after weeks of attacks by the Iran-backed group on cargo ships in the crucial shipping corridor.

The Houthis in the Crosshairs

The Iran-backed militant group, which is not internationally recognized as the government of Yemen, controls much of the western part of the country, including territory near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a crucial maritime chokepoint that connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden.

Officially known as Ansar Allah but generally referred to by the name of their founder, Hussein al-Houthi, the Houthis are members of a minority Shiite sect in Northern Yemen. They have been engaged in a brutal civil war for more than a decade against Yemen's internationally recognized government and an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The Houthis, which had been designated as a terrorist group, have received substantial economic support and weaponry from Iran.

They have been attacking ships traversing the Red Sea since late last year, which has wreaked havoc on global trade and drawn international condemnation. The group has claimed it is conducting the attacks in support of the Palestinian people and has demanded that Israel agree to a ceasefire in Gaza.

U.S. Strikes Back

President Joe Biden announced on Thursday night that the U.S. and its allies would strike back at the Houthis, and on Friday alone, 28 Houthi locations were targeted with bombs and missiles launched from air and sea. The strikes continued over the weekend, with U.S. forces hitting a Houthi radar site on Saturday.

"We will stand fully prepared to defend ourselves and defend that shipping, if it comes to it," John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, told reporters on Friday.

This is a developing story.

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