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Official: Pro-Iranian rebels in Yemen fire more missiles at US ship near Red Sea

The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason nests alongside the guided-missile destroyer USS Stout in this Sept. 4, 2016 photo.

BILL DODGE/U.S. NAVY

By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 12, 2016

WASHINGTON — For the second time in four days, U.S. ships came under fire from a cruise missile launched from Yemeni territory controlled by pro-Iranian rebels, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

About 6 p.m. Wednesday, the missile was fired at the USS Mason, a destroyer, and the USS San Antonio, an amphibious transport dock ship, as the vessels cruised the Bab el Mandeb Strait, a narrow waterway between Yemen and the Horn of Africa that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

The missile did not strike the vessels and there were no U.S. injuries, according to a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Mason fired two missiles in response to the attack, the official said. The first U.S. missile did not hit the incoming missile, but the second U.S. missile might have destroyed it. The Navy was still assessing the attack to confirm what happened, the official said. 

On Sunday, the Mason and the USS Ponce, another amphibious transport dock ship, were also fired on by missiles launched from Yemen as the vessels cruised the strait. The Mason fired SM-2 and Sea Sparrow missiles in response to the attack, according to news reports.

The Mason, based in Norfolk, Virginia, detected the incoming missiles through its AN/SPY-1D radar, another Pentagon official said on the condition of anonymity. The radar specializes in identifying and relaying tracking and targeting information as part of the ship’s defense system. 

On Wednesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed the latest attack.

“Those who threaten our forces should know that U.S. commanders retain the right to defend their ships, and we will respond to this threat at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner,” he said in a statement.

The United States is supporting a Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels since March 2015 after they seized the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and forced Western-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

On Tuesday, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, would not rule out the missiles fired against the ships came from Iran, which has backed the Shiite rebels.

copp.tara@stripes.com
Twitter: @TaraCopp 

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