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US warship shoots down drone from Houthi territory while responding to commercial tanker attack

By Haley Britzky, CNN

(CNN) — A US warship shot down a drone that appeared to have been fired from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen on Wednesday morning local time while responding to a mayday call from a commercial tanker that Houthi forces attempted to board, a US defense official said, adding that the unmanned aerial vehicle was “headed in the direction of the ship” and shot down in self-defense.

At the time of the shoot down, the USS Mason — an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer — was “responding to reports that a commercial oil tanker was under attack from suspected Houthi forces.”

US Central Command said on Thursday that Houthi forces on skiffs attempted to board the Motor Vessel Ardmore Encounter, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker. When their attempt to board was “unsuccessful,” CENTCOM said in a post on X, “a pair of missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen at the vessel, which both missed.”

The Mason was responding to the Ardmore Encounter’s mayday call when the drone was launched from a Houthi-controlled area in Yemen and shot down.

The Ardmore Encounter “was able to proceed without further incident,” CENTCOM said.

The suspected Houthi attack on a commercial tanker on Wednesday is separate from the attack earlier this week, when the Mason also responded to an anti-ship cruise missile attack on the M/V Strinda, a Norwegian-flagged tanker. The cruise missile on Monday was also launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen.

The Mason also shot down a drone last week amid an uptick in attacks in the area.

The US and its allies have started exploring expanding an existing maritime taskforce in the Red Sea as attacks on commercial tankers from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen have become increasingly regular.

CNN previously reported that officials primarily see attacks from the Iran-backed Houthis as opportunistic in taking advantage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, rather than a strategic effort by Tehran to expand the conflict.

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters that the actions from the Houthi forces “are destabilizing, they’re dangerous, clearly a flagrant violation of international law and so this is an international problem that requires an international solution.”

“The only other thing I’d say on that, as we’ve demonstrated in the past, is that our military will not hesitate to take action where we deem it necessary and appropriate, including to protect against actions in the maritime domain that could threaten our forces,” Ryder said.

The drone shoot-down on Wednesday comes after US and coalition forces in Syria were attacked twice on Tuesday afternoon in a single rocket attack on Mission Support Site Euphrates, and a multi-rocket attack on Mission Support Site Green Village.

The two attacks mark at least 94 on US and coalition forces since attacks began on October 17.

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