JERUSALEM : Two American-flagged ships carrying cargo for the US Defence and State departments came under attack off Yemen on Wednesday, officials said, with the US Navy intercepting some of the incoming fire.
Suspicion immediately fell on Yemen’s Al Houthi militants for carrying out the assault.
The attacks on the container ships Maersk Detroit and Maersk Chesapeake further raise the stakes of the group’s ongoing attacks on shipping through the vital Bab Al Mandeb Strait.
The US and the United Kingdom have launched multiple rounds of airstrikes seeking to stop the attacks.
Meanwhile, Qatar, one of the world’s top exporters of liquified natural gas, warned that its deliveries were affected by ongoing Al Houthi attacks over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Danish shipper Maersk, in a statement to The Associated Press, identified two of its vessels affected by the attacks as the US-flagged container ships Maersk Detroit and Maersk Chesapeake.
It said the US Navy was accompanying its ships at the time.
“While en route, both ships reported seeing explosions close by and the US Navy accompaniment also intercepted multiple projectiles,” Maersk said.
“The crew, ship, and cargo are safe and unharmed. The US Navy has turned both ships around and is escorting them back to the Gulf of Aden.”
Maersk said both vessels carried cargo belonging to the US Defence and State Departments, as well as other government agencies, meaning they were “afforded the protection of the US Navy for passage through the strait.”
The ships were operated by Maersk Line, a US subsidiary of Maersk that is “suspending transits in the region until further notice,” the company said.
The US military’s Central Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Al Houthis, who have been launching attacks on ships since November over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, did not immediately acknowledge the incident.