US Navy destroys Houthi boats in Red Sea after attempted hijack

31 December 2023, 14:05 | Updated: 2 January 2024, 07:49

USS Gravely
USS Gravely. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The US Navy has destroyed several Houthi boats in the Red Sea after an attempted hijacking.

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Four boats tried to attack the Singapore-flagged Maersk Hangzhou and got within metres of the ship, the US military said.

The US opened fire, killing several of the armed crews, the Central Command (Centcom) said. No-one was injured on the ship.

The Maersk Hanzghou reported that it had already been hit by a missile on Saturday night while transiting the Southern Red Sea and requested assistance.

The USS Gravely and USS Laboon responded to the call for help, and the Denmark-owned vessel was reportedly seaworthy and no injuries were noted, Centcom said in a statement.

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"This is the 23rd illegal attack by the Houthis on international shipping since November 19," Centcom said.

The same ship also issued an additional distress call about a second attack "by four Iranian-backed Houthi small boats".

The attackers fired small arms weapons at the Maersk Hanzghou, getting to within about 65ft (20m) of the vessel.

US helicopters from the USS Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft carrier and Gravely responded to the distress call and, while issuing verbal warnings to the attackers, the small boat crews opened fire on the helicopters using small arms, Centcom said.

"The US Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defence", sinking three of the four boats and killing the crews, while the fourth boat fled the area.

The Iran-backed Houthis have claimed attacks on ships in the Red Sea that they say are either linked to Israel or heading to Israeli ports.

They say their attacks aim to end Israel's air and ground offensive targeting the Gaza Strip following Hamas' attack on October 7.

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