Merchant ship struck in likely Houthi attack as USS Eisenhower heads home

US aircraft carrier leading operation against Houthis to return to Virginia after an 8-month deployment said to be most intense since WWII; will be replaced by carrier from Pacific

The USS aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as 'IKE,' sails in the Red Sea, June 12, 2024. (AP/Bernat Armangue, File)
The USS aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as 'IKE,' sails in the Red Sea, June 12, 2024. (AP/Bernat Armangue, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A commercial ship traveling through the Gulf of Aden saw explosions near the vessel, authorities said Saturday, likely the latest attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attempting to target the shipping lane.

The apparent fire by the Houthis comes after the sinking this week of the ship Tutor, which marked what appears to be a new escalation by the Iranian-backed Houthis in their campaign of attacks on ships in the vital maritime corridor over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, United States officials reportedly ordered the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the aircraft carrier leading America’s response to the Houthi attacks, to return home.

The captain of the ship targeted late Friday saw “explosions in the vicinity of the vessel,” the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said.

“The crew are reported safe and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” the UKMTO said, without elaborating on whether the ship sustained any damage.

The Houthis, who have held Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, since 2014, did not immediately claim the attack. However, it can take the rebels hours or even days to acknowledge their assaults.

The MV Tutor sinks in the Red Sea after it was struck by a Houthi drone vessel, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Etat-Major des Armées/France via AP)

The Houthis on Friday released footage of one of their drone boats, the “Tufan,” or “Flood,” which they said targeted the Tutor.

The Houthis have launched more than 60 attacks targeting specific vessels and fired off other missiles and drones in their campaign, which has killed a total of four sailors. They have seized one vessel and sunk two since November.

A US-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes on May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.

In March, the Belize-flagged Rubymar carrying fertilizer became the first to sink in the Red Sea after taking on water for days following a rebel attack.

A handout picture provided by the Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV on February 26, 2024, shows the Rubymar cargo ship sinking off the coast of Yemen after being struck by Houthi rebels. (Al-Joumhouriya TV/AFP)

The Houthis have maintained that their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain. However, many of the ships attacked have little or no connection to the Israel-Hamas war.

Meanwhile, citing an anonymous official, the US Naval Institute’s news service reported that the Eisenhower would be returning home to Norfolk, Virginia, after over eight months of combat deployment, which the US Navy says has been its most intense since World War II. The report said an aircraft carrier operating in the Pacific would be taking the Eisenhower’s place.

The closest American aircraft carrier known to be operating in Asia is the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The Roosevelt anchored Saturday in Busan, South Korea, amid Seoul’s ongoing tensions with North Korea.

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