The United States military has carried out Tomahawk missile strikes in Yemen in retaliation for three failed missile attacks by Houthi militants against the USS Mason, a U.S. Navy destroyer operating in international waters in the Red Sea.
"Early this morning local time, the U.S. military struck three radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen's Red Sea coast," said Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary.
The strikes fired from the destroyer USS Nitze were authorized by President Obama.
Cook said the radar sites had been "involved in the recent missile launches threatening USS Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb." Initial assessments indicate that the strikes were successful, Cook said.
"These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway; said Cook. And he warned "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."
Earlier on Wednesday the USS Mason was the target of another failed missile attack launched from Houthi controlled territory, the second in four days. The three missiles fired at the destroyer all fell into the sea and no one was hurt aboard the ship. It is unclear if defensive countermeasures fired from the ship against two of the missiles led them to fall into the sea or if they fell on their own.
In the wake of the second attack in four days targeting the Mason, Cook had said “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.”
A U.S. official said the Tomahawk missile strikes were carried out at 4am local time in Yemen. The three sites were located in coastal areas of Yemen along the Red Sea coast, north of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, the vital waterway connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.
The official said the strikes on the radar sites "will degrade their ability to track and target ships in the future."
The official said the radars sites were active during the three missile attacks on the USS Mason and other ships in the Red Sea, including last week's attack on a ship belonging to the United Arab Emirates.
The Houthis are an Iranian-supported militant group that overthrew the Yemeni government two years ago. For much of that time they have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition that intervened militarily in Yemen to restore the previous government.
The recent Houthi attacks are believed to be in response to a coalition airstrike this weekend in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa that killed more than 100 people attending the funeral of a Houthi leader.
That airstrike led the White House to announce it was reviewing its support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.