‘Enabled By Iran’: Pentagon Sheds Light On Drone Attacks Against Ships In Red Sea

120626-N-RY232-1149 ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 26, 2012) - Ships from Carrier Strike Group 8 sail in formation for a photo exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, June 26. Dwight D. Eisenhower is on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) and Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. IKE deployed as part of Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which includes CSG 8, IKE, guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66), guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99), guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), the seven squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, and Destroyer Squadron 28. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper/Released)

The U.S. military confirmed efforts to defend against three drone attacks while responding to distress calls from three separate commercial ships transiting the southern Red Sea on Sunday, but said it was too early to determine whether a U.S. Navy vessel was also a target.

While on patrol in the region, the U.S.S. Carney guided-missile destroyer responded to three separate distress calls as the commercial ships came under attack from an onslaught of drones and ballistic missiles from areas occupied by the Iran-backed militant group, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement Sunday night. In the process of rendering support to the ships, the Carney downed three Houthi drones that may have been targeting the U.S. warship.

“These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security. They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world. We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran,” CENTCOM said in the statement.

“The United States will consider all appropriate responses in full coordination with its international allies and partners,” CENTCOM added.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Sarea, a spokesperson for the Houthi’s military arm, said the attacks were launched to show support for the Palestinians as Israel is at war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, The Washington Post reported. The Houthis targeted two of the vessels, the Unity Explorer and the Number Nine, “after they rejected warning messages from the Yemeni naval forces,” he said.

The three vessels under attack were connected to at least 14 separate nations, CENTCOM said.


The first incident took place at 9:15 a.m. local time in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, when the Carney detected an anti-ship ballistic missile heading toward the Bahamas-flagged, U.K.-owned Unity Explorer hitting the Red Sea “in the vicinity” of the ship.

Less than two hours later, the Carney shot down a weaponized drone launched by the Houthis.

“The drone was headed toward Carney although its specific target is not clear,” CENTCOM said, adding that it was too early to determine whether the Houthis launched the drone with intent to hit the U.S. Navy destroyer.

At 12:35 p.m., the Unity Explorer sent out a distress call after being hit by a missile, which was also fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The Carney was in the midst of a damage assessment on the Unity Explorer, the Carney destroyed another inbound drone.

Then at 3:30 p.m., another vessel, the Number 9, a missile struck the Panamanian-flagged, Bermuda and U.K.-owned bulk carrier while it was sailing through international shipping lanes an hour earlier, CENTCOM said. The carrier was damaged but there were no casualties.

An hour later the Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Sophie II sent out a distress call saying it had come under a missile attack but reporting no major damage, CENTCOM said. While en route to respond to the call, the Carney shot down a drone heading it its direction.

Micaela Burrow on December 4, 2023

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