US strikes more Houthi weapon sites; US bulk carrier bombed by drone

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The US military reports that Central Command (CENTCOM) forces conducted further strike actions against Houthi missile launch sites on Wednesday 17 January.

On the same day the UK Maritime Trade Operations office advised that a US-owned bulk carrier, the 55,257-dwt Genco Picardy, owned by Genco Shipping, had been hit by a one-way kamikaze type drone, which resulted in a small fire on the Supramax bulker.

According to the ship’s master, the fire was safely extinguished and there were no injuries to crew and the vessel was proceeding to its next port of call.

It is not clear whether the latest US attack on Houthi held positions is a response to the attack on the Genco Picardy, or is coincidental.

The CENTCOM advice states that at approximately 11:59 Yemen time, US Central Command forces conducted strikes on 14 Houthi missiles that were loaded to be fired in Houthi controlled areas in Yemen.

“These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting US forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves.”

CENTCOM added that the strikes, along with other actions taken by US forces, will degrade the Houthi’s capabilities to continue their “reckless” attacks on international and commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden.

“The actions by the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists continue to endanger international mariners and disrupt the commercial shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea and adjacent waterways,” said General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM Commander.

“We will continue to take actions to protect the lives of innocent mariners and we will always protect our people.”

On the morning of 18 January, Central Command forces also conducted strikes on two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the southern Red Sea, said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh.

“These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time,” she said.

These defensive strikes, carried out by Navy F/A-18 attack aircraft were taken because of the threat of imminent attack by the Houthis and to protect freedom of navigation, she said.

Meanwhile, the US Navy on 11 January seized weapons intended for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, on a dhow located in international waters, off the coast of Somalia, in the Sea of Oman. According to Central Command, it was carrying Iranian-made missile components, including propulsion systems, guidance systems and warheads for medium-range ballistic missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-ship cruise missiles. The dhow, deemed dangerous, was then sunk. Central Command said the 14 crew members were treated “in accordance with international law”.

Central Command believes that “these same weapons have been used by the Houthis to threaten and attack innocent sailors on international merchant ships transiting the Red Sea.” Additionally, “the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis in Yemen violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216 and international law.”

The operation was carried out at night by US Navy commandos from the floating base USS Lewis B Puller, supported by helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles. During this operation two Navy SEALs disappeared at sea – one fell when boarding the dhow and the other then came to his aid by diving into the sea. The search for the missing SEALS is ongoing.

Written by Africa Ports & Ships and defenceWeb.