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US missiles destroy radar sites on Yemen coast in retaliatory strike

Published 13/10/2016

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels (AP)
Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels (AP)

US-launched cruise missiles have destroyed three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen's Red Sea coast, officials said.

The strike was a retaliatory action after two incidents this week in which missiles were fired at US Navy ships.

The strikes marked the first shots fired by the US in anger against the Houthis in Yemen's long-running civil war.

The US previously only provided logistical support and refuelling to the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen's Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies, including supporters of Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

While the US military has been focused on al Qaida in Yemen, the Houthis had not been a primary target of American forces until the missile launches from Houthi-controlled territory this week.

No information on casualties from the US Tomahawk missiles was provided by American officials.

The three radar sites were in remote areas where there was little risk of civilian casualties or collateral damage, said a military source.

The destroyer USS Nitze launched the cruise missiles, the official said.

President Barack Obama authorised the strikes at the recommendation of defence secretary Ash Carter and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph Dunford, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

"These limited self-defence strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway," Mr Cook said.

"The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb and elsewhere around the world."

Early on Wednesday, two missiles were fired at the USS Mason, a guided missile destroyer conducting routine operations in the region with the USS Ponce, an amphibious warship. Neither missile got near the ship, said a US military official.

The missiles were fired from the Yemen coast, near the location used on Sunday when two missiles were launched at the same two ships, said the official.

A second official said it was not clear whether the ship's counter-measures caused the missiles to hit the water or if they would have landed there anyway.

The missiles fired on Sunday were variants of the so-called Silkworm missile, and both also fell harmlessly into the water. The Silkworm is a type of coastal defense cruise missile Iran has been known to use.

Sunday was the first time that US ships had been targeted by a missile launch from Yemen. Last week, an Emirati-leased Swift boat came under rocket fire near the same area and sustained serious damage.

The United Arab Emirates described the vessel as carrying humanitarian aid and having a crew of civilians, while the Houthis called the boat a warship.


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