US Military Intercepts Cruise Missile Targeting USS Laboon Warship
US Military Intercepts Cruise Missile Targeting USS Laboon Warship

By Jack Phillips

Yemen-based Houthis fired an anti-ship cruise missile toward a U.S. Navy warship on Sunday, military officials confirmed.

A statement from the Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees U.S. military forces in the Middle East, said the Houthis fired a missile at the USS Laboon at around 4:35 p.m. local time in the southern Red Sea. The missile was shot down by U.S. fighter aircraft. No injuries were reported.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which oversees Mideast waters, said the attack on the ship Monday happened some 110 miles southeast of Aden. The UK body said the ship’s captain reported that the port side of the vessel was “hit from above by a missile.” It did not identify the ship or elaborate further.

It’s not presently clear whether the United States would retaliate for the latest attacks, though President Joe Biden has said he “will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”

It’s one of many attacks the Houthis, an Islamist group that’s believed to be materially backed by the Iranian regime and was once designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, has launched on U.S. assets as well as merchant ships in the region in recent weeks. The group said that the attacks are designed to thwart ships from reaching Israel amid an escalating regional conflict.

Sunday’s attack follows U.S. and UK airstrikes that targeted the Houthis inside Yemen last week, triggering fears that the conflict is escalating across the Middle East. It all started on Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas launched terrorist attacks in southern Israel, prompting a lengthy campaign by Israel’s military in Gaza, where Hamas—a designated terrorist group that is also suspected to be backed by Iran—is based.

In recent weeks, the Houthis have targeted the vital corridor that links Asian and Middle Eastern energy and cargo shipments with the Suez Canal, a key route to Europe, due to the Gaza war.

The Sunday attack toward the American warship also marked the first U.S.-acknowledged fire by the Houthis since America and allied nations began strikes Jan. 12 in Yemen following weeks of assaults on shipping in the Red Sea. The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

The first day of U.S.-led strikes on Jan. 12 hit 28 locations and struck more than 60 targets with cruise missiles and bombs launched by fighter jets, warships, and a submarine. Sites hit included weapon depots, radars, and command centers, the United States said.

The Houthis have yet to acknowledge how severe the damage from the strikes was but said five of their members were killed and six others were injured. U.S. forces followed up with a strike on Jan. 13 targeting a Houthi radar site.

For their part, the Houthis alleged, without providing any details, that the United States struck a site near Hodeida on Jan. 14 around the same time as the cruise missile fire. The Americans and the United Kingdom did not acknowledge conducting any strikes, suggesting the blast may have been from a misfiring Houthi missile.

On Sunday, the leader of the terrorist group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, obliquely referenced the widening Houthi attacks on ships during a speech, saying that “the sea has become a battlefield of missiles, drones, and warships” and blaming the U.S. strikes for escalating maritime tensions. “The most dangerous thing is what the Americans did in the Red Sea, (it) will harm the security of all maritime navigation,” Mr. Nasrallah said.

Biden Response

There has been speculation that the U.S. State Department will place the Houthis back on its list of designated terrorist groups. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have long been on that list.

On Jan. 12, a reporter asked President Biden whether he believes the Yemen-based group are terrorists. A reporter asked the president, “Are you willing to call the Houthis a terrorist group, sir?” The president responded: “I think they are.”

Houthis gather during a military maneuver near Sanaa, Yemen, on Oct. 30, 2023. (Houthi Media Center/Handout via REUTERS/File photo)

In the early days of 2021, after taking office, the Biden administration revoked then-President Donald Trump’s designation of the Houthis as terrorists.  Such a designation would cut them off from the international banking system and would place increased financial pressure on the group.

But President Biden said it’s “irrelevant” whether the Houthis are on the State Department terrorist list. “It’s irrelevant whether they’re designated. We’ve put together a group of nations that are going to say that if they continue to act and behave as they do, we’ll respond,” he said.

When was asked Jan. 12 if the U.S. would carry out more strikes on the Houthis if the attacks didn’t stop, the president said: “We will make sure that we respond to the Houthis if they continue this outrageous behavior, along with our allies,” according to a White House transcript.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USNN World News (USNN) USNN World News Corporation is a media company consisting of a series of sites specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information, local,...