US drone downed off Yemen coast by apparent Houthi missile

US drone downed off Yemen coast by apparent Houthi missile
A US drone has been downed off the coast of Yemen for the second time since hostilities arose in the Red Sea after Israel began its war on Gaza.
3 min read
21 February, 2024
This is the second time the Houthis have used missiles to bring down US drones off Yemen's coast [Getty]

An American MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed off the coast of Yemen after apparently being struck by a missile fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

It is the second time an MQ-9 - which can be used for both surveillance and strikes - was lost near Yemen in recent months, with US officials confirming last year that another was downed by the Houthis.

The apparent shoot-down came the same day that the rebels targeted two US-owned merchant vessels as they continue their campaign of attacks on shipping in the area.

"On February 19, a US MQ-9 was downed or went down off the coast of Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, in the Red Sea," Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists.

"Initial indications are that it was shot down by a Houthi surface-to-air missile," Singh said.

The Houthis - who are opposed to government forces in Yemen and are also part of the "axis of resistance" of groups arrayed against Israel - said they shot down an MQ-9 in November 2023, while the United States assessed that another was downed by the rebels in 2019.

Earlier on Tuesday, the military's Central Command said US and coalition aircraft and warships shot down 10 one-way attack drones in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden between 8:00 pm on Monday and 12:30 am the following day.

The French defense ministry said Tuesday that the country's navy had destroyed two drones over the Red Sea during the night, but it was not immediately clear if they were included in the CENTCOM figures.

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US-owned ships targeted 

The US military command also said an American destroyer shot down an anti-ship cruise missile that was "headed in its direction" early on Tuesday, while US forces destroyed a drone and a missile launcher in Yemen the day before.

On Monday, two anti-ship ballistic missiles caused minor damage to the M/V Sea Champion - a US-owned, Greek-flagged grain ship - while a drone hit the M/V Navis Fortuna, a US-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, CENTCOM said.

The Houthis had said in a statement Monday that they had targeted "two American ships in the Gulf of Aden. The first was 'Sea Champion' and the other was 'Navis Fortuna.'"

The Houthis began attacking Red Sea shipping in November, saying they were hitting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by Israel's war on the Palestinian enclave.

US and UK forces responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.

Anger over Israel's devastating campaign in Gaza has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.