Ballistic missiles fired from Yemen were launched in the direction of the Navy destroyer Mason Sunday as the warship responded to a distress call from an Israeli-linked commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden, according to U.S. Central Command.
The episode is the latest incident where destroyers in the Middle East have encountered drones and missiles that U.S. officials say were fired by Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen. It also comes as U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have faced multiple attacks in recent weeks amid the Israel-Hamas war.
The Mason and other allied ships and aircraft from CENTCOM’s counter-piracy task force came to the aid of the commercial vessel Central Park on Sunday following calls that an “unknown entity” attacked the ship, according to the combatant command.
“Upon arrival, coalition elements demanded release of the vessel,” CENTCOM said in a statement. “Subsequently, five armed individuals debarked the ship and attempted to flee via their small boat. The Mason pursued the attackers resulting in their eventual surrender.”
As the Mason and other allied forces concluded assisting the commercial vessel, “two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen toward the general location” of the destroyer, CENTCOM said.
“The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden approximately 10 nautical miles from the ships,” according to the command’s statement.
Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Monday that those who boarded the Central Park attempted to take control of the ship and access the crew cabin. Meanwhile, the crew of the commercial vessel locked themselves “into a safe haven,” he told reporters Monday.
Ryder said the armed individuals, who are Somali, fled the scene in a small boat after the Mason arrived. But the destroyer dispatched a visit, board, search and seizure team to seize the individuals, and all are currently detained aboard the Mason.
The crew of the Liberian-flagged commercial vessel, which has ties to Israel, is safe. Neither vessel suffered damage or reported injuries.
The Mason is part of the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower’s carrier strike group, which transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Gulf on Sunday to support freedom of navigation patrols and other missions in the region.
The carrier entered the waters of the Middle East on Nov. 4, the first time a carrier operated in CENTCOM’s area of responsibility since the end of the Afghanistan war in 2021.
“Maritime domain security is essential to regional stability,” Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, CENTCOM commander, said in a statement Monday. “We will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure the safety and security of international shipping lanes.”
Twice in recent weeks, fellow destroyer Thomas Hudner has shot down air drones that officials say were fired from Yemen. Additionally, the Navy destroyer Carney shot down cruise missiles and drones in October that U.S. officials also attributed to Yemen.
Mason’s crew received combat actions ribbons after Houthi rebels fired on the warship and other vessels in 2016.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which is based out of nearby Aden, blamed the rebels for the seizure in a statement carried by their state-run news agency.
“The Yemeni government has renewed its denunciation of the acts of maritime piracy carried out by the terrorist Houthi militias with the support of the Iranian regime, the most recent of which was the hijacking of the Central Park,” the statement read.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.