WASHINGTON • A United States Navy destroyer was again targeted in the Red Sea in an apparent failed missile attack launched from the coast of Yemen, said a US admiral.
US defence officials said late on Saturday that an initial assessment given by chief of naval operations John Richardson had yet to be finalised and that the incident was still being reviewed to determine exactly what had happened.
The missile attack, if confirmed, would mark the third time in a week that the USS Mason had been fired on in international waters from territory in Yemen controlled by Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels.
"The Mason once again appears to have come under attack in the Red Sea, again from coastal defence cruise missiles fired from the coast of Yemen," Admiral Richardson said during a ship christening in Baltimore.
Another US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "We are aware of the reports and we are assessing the situation. All of our ships and crews are safe and unharmed."
The latest incident came just two days after the US military launched cruise missiles against three coastal radar sites in areas held by Houthi rebels in Yemen, in response to the two previous failed missile firings against the Mason.
Initial reports on the latest incident, according to another US defence official, said the crew detected multiple missiles being fired towards the Mason, which responded with onboard countermeasures to defend itself. No damage was reported to the vessel or other ships accompanying it.
Last Thursday's counter-strikes, authorised by President Barack Obama, marked Washington's first direct military action against suspected Houthi-controlled targets in Yemen's conflict, and raised concerns over the potential for further escalation.
The Houthi movement earlier last week denied responsibility for the missile attacks on the Mason, and warned that it too would defend itself.
The Pentagon last Thursday stressed the limited nature of the strikes, aimed at radar that it suspected enabled the launch of at least three missiles against the Mason on Oct 9 and last Wednesday.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said at the time that the US counter-strikes were not connected to the broader civil war in Yemen. The conflict has unleashed famine and killed more than 10,000 people since March last year in the Arab world's poorest country.
The US, a long-time ally of Saudi Arabia, has provided aerial refuelling of warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition striking Yemen and supplies American weapons to the kingdom.
Iran, which supports the Houthi group, said last week that it had deployed two warships to the Gulf of Aden to protect ship lanes from the threat of piracy.