US missiles destroy radar sites on Yemen coast


Washington—U.S.-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles destroyed three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen’s Red Sea Coast early Thursday, officials said, a retaliatory action that followed two incidents this week in which missiles were fired at U.S. Navy ships.
The strikes marked the first shots fired by the U.S. in anger against the Houthis in Yemen’s long-running civil war. The U.S. previously only provided logistical support and refueling to the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies, including supporters of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
While the U.S. military has been focused on al-Qaida in Yemen, the Houthis had not been a primary target of American forces until the missile launches from Houthi-controlled territory this week.
No information on casualties from the U.S. missiles was provided by American officials. The three radar sites were in remote areas, where there was little risk of civilian casualties or collateral damage, said a military official who was not authorized to be named and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The destroyer USS Nitze launched the cruise missiles, the official said. President Barack Obama authorized the strikes at the recommendation of Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. U.S. officials had said earlier that the U.S. was weighing what military response to take.
“These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway,” Cook said following the U.S. action. “The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb and elsewhere around the world.”
Loai al-Shami, a Houthi spokesman, declined to comment immediately on the U.S. strike. Early Wednesday, two missiles were fired at the USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyer that is conducting routine operations in the region with the USS Ponce, an amphibious warship. Neither missile got near the ship, said a U.S. military official.
The missiles were fired from the Yemen coast, near the location used Sunday when two missiles were launched at the same two ships, said the official, who was not authorized to be named and spoke on condition of anonymity.