By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. military said on Wednesday that its forces conducted strikes on 14 Houthi missiles that were loaded to be fired from Yemen.
U.S. Central Command said in a statement posted on the social media platform X that the Houthi missiles presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region.
“These missiles on launch rails presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region and could have been fired at any time, prompting U.S. forces to exercise their inherent right and obligation to defend themselves,” Central Command said.
“These strikes, along with other actions we have taken, will degrade the Houthi’s capabilities to continue their reckless attacks on international and commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden,” the statement said.
Attacks by the Iran-allied Houthi militia on ships in the region since November have slowed trade between Asia and Europe and alarmed major powers.
The Houthis, who control most of Yemen, say they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and have threatened to expand their attacks to include U.S. ships in response to American and British strikes from last week.
U.S. Central Command said earlier on Wednesday that a drone launched from areas controlled by the Houthi rebels in Yemen had struck a U.S.-owned vessel in the Gulf of Aden.
There was some damage but no injuries in the attack, the U.S. Central Command said on X.
The vessel, M/V Genco Picardy, is “a Marshall Islands flagged, U.S. owned and operated bulk carrier ship,” according to the U.S. Central Command.
The United States on Wednesday returned the Yemen-based Houthi rebels to a list of terrorist groups, as the militants also claimed another attack this week on a U.S. operated vessel in the Red Sea region.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; writing by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler and Chris Reese)