Somali pirates likely behind attempted tanker seizure -US military

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -An attempted hijacking of a commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday appears to have been carried out by armed Somali pirates and not Yemeni Houthis, despite the firing of missiles from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen afterwards, the Pentagon said on Monday.

“We’re continuing to assess, but initial indications are that these five individuals are Somali,” said Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder.

“Clearly a piracy related incident,” Ryder added.

A U.S. Navy warship responded to a distress call on Sunday from the chemical tanker Central Park. The attackers were taken aboard the U.S. warship Mason, the U.S. military said, and the Central Park and its crew were safe.

There have been a series of attacks in Middle Eastern waters since a war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas broke out on Oct. 7.

Central Park, a tanker managed by Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management company owned by Israel’s Ofer family. The Liberian-flagged vessel was built in 2015 and is owned by Clumvez Shipping Inc, LSEG data showed.

Ryder told reporters that U.S. Navy personnel fired warning shots when the attackers were trying to escape, but there were no injuries.

He added that there were three Chinese military ships in the area but they did not respond. China’s embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment on the assertion.

The U.S. military has said that two ballistic missiles were later fired from Houthi controlled territory in the general direction of the Mason and Central Park, but they landed about 10 nautical miles away from the ships.

“It’s not clear to us who they were targeting exactly,” Ryder said.

The attempted tanker hijacking followed a seizure of an Israeli-linked cargo ship by Houthis, allies of Iran, in the southern Red Sea last week.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart, Editing by Franklin Paul and Grant McCool)