U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mason shot down a Houthi drone coming out of Yemen on Wednesday, a U.S. defense official told Fox News.
The drone was headed toward USS Mason, which was responding to reports that Houthis were attacking the tanker Ardmore Encounter by using skiffs and then firing two missiles that missed, according to the official. No damage or injuries were initially reported, and the Ardmore Encounter went on its way.
The incident occurred around 8 a.m. Sanaa time.
A Pentagon official confirmed to Fox News that the two missiles were anti-ship ballistic missiles fired from ground-based locations in Yemen.
Information was not immediately available on what type of drone was involved, but the defense official suspected it was a one-way attack drone.
The tanker Ardmore Encounter was loaded with Indian-manufactured jet fuel near the key Bab el-Mandeb Strait, marking the first time Houthi rebels targeted an energy shipment heading to the Suez Canal, according to The Associated Press. An unnamed U.S. official also told the AP that two missiles fired from territory held by Yemen’s Houthi rebels missed the commercial tanker on Wednesday, and an American warship also shot down a suspected Houthi drone flying in its direction during the incident.
The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker was traveling north toward the Suez Canal in the Red Sea, satellite tracking data analyzed by the AP showed. The vessel was on its way from Mangalore, India, and had an armed security crew aboard it, according to data transmitted by the ship. Those guards apparently opened fire to drive off skiffs loaded with men trying to board the vessel, the private intelligence firm Ambrey said. Ardmore Shipping Corp., which owns and operates the ship, issued a statement to the AP acknowledging the attack.
“No one boarded the vessel and all crew members are safe and accounted for,” the statement said. “The vessel remains fully operational with no loss of cargo or damage on board.”
It added, “Ardmore is in close contact with the relevant authorities and military assistance is now in the area providing support as required.”
The ship was carrying a load of jet fuel from Shell MRPL Aviation Fuels & Services Ltd., a joint operation of the oil giant and India’s national oil company. The fuel was heading to either Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Gavle, Sweden, Ardmore Shipping said.
The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, earlier reported a separate incident off the coast of Oman. It said a vessel had been followed by smaller boats carrying machine guns and men in gray uniforms before escaping unharmed.
On Monday, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that USS Mason responded after a Houthi missile struck a Norwegian-flagged tanker in the Red Sea.
“At around 4 p.m. EST on December 11, the Motor Tanker STRINDA was attacked by what is assessed to have been an Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) launched from a Houthi controlled area of Yemen while passing through the Bab-el-Mandeb,” CENTCOM said in a statement. “The STRINDA reported damage causing a fire on-board, but no casualties at this time. There were no US ships in the vicinity at the time of the attack, but the USS MASON responded to the M/T STRINDA’s mayday call and is currently rendering assistance.”
Yemen’s Houthi movement claimed the attack Tuesday, saying they struck the Norwegian oil and chemical tanker with a rocket in its latest protest against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
This comes more than a week after CENTCOM reported there were four attacks against three separate commercial vessels operating in international waters in the southern Red Sea on Dec. 3. The Arleigh-Burke class destroyer USS Carney responded to the distress calls from the ships, engaging and shooting down several UAVs launched from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen, according to the Department of Defense, which said it was unclear if the American destroyer was the intended target.
On Nov. 29, an Iranian-made Houthi drone was shot down by U.S. Navy destroyer USS Carney, a military official confirmed to Fox News then. There was no damage to the Carney or any injuries to U.S. personnel onboard.
Back on Oct. 19, USS Carney shot down the 15 drones and four cruise missiles fired from Yemen in the northern Red Sea during a nine-hour time span using its SM-2 surface-to-air missiles. It did not shoot those down in self-defense, like the drone it shot down Nov. 29. The missiles were headed toward Eilat.
Fox News’ Liz Friden and The Associated Press contributed to this report.