by Susan Katz Keating
The United States Navy sunk three Houthi speedboats in the Red Sea early Sunday morning, following another attack on a merchant ship as tensions continue to rise in the region.
Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and the USS Gravely responded to a distress call from the civilian cargo ship Maersk Hangzhao, saying it was under attack from Houthi fighters, according to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). It was the second distress call from the ship in less than 24 hours.
READ MORE: ‘We Will Attack American Warships,’ Houthi Agent Tells Soldier of Fortune Publisher
The boats originated from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The small boat crews fired at the Hangzhao and attempted to board the vessel after getting within 20 meters of the ship, CENTCOM said.
A security team aboard the Hangzhou returned fire, according to CENTCOM.
Helicopters from the USS Eisenhower and Gravely responded to the distress call. While the helicopters issued verbal warnings to the small boats, the Houthis fired upon the U.S. helicopters with crew-served weapons and small arms.
“The U.S. Navy helicopters returned fire in self-defense, sinking three of the four small boats, and killing the crews,” CENTCOM said. “The fourth boat fled the area. There was no damage to U.S. personnel or equipment.”