US Navy frees Houthi-seized vessel with Bulgarians on board

The United States Central Command confirmed on X ( that a US Navy vessel had freed the M/V Central Park, a commercial vessel reported to have been seized earlier by the Iran-backed Houthi movement, with missiles fired from the Houthi-controlled shore at an area in which the Navy vessel and the tanker were sailing.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said on November 26 that there were Bulgarian citizens in the crew of the tanker, which was seized off the coast of Aden, Yemen.

On November 19, a spokesman for the Houthi movement, Yahya Sarea, said that the group would attack all ships owned or operated by Israeli companies or flying the Israeli flag, the Jerusalem Post reported. That day, the Houthi movement hijacked a Bulgarian-captained vessel reported to be ultimately Israeli-owned.

US Central Command said that on November 26, the USS Mason, with allied ships from the coalition counter-piracy task force, and associated aircraft responded to a distress call from the Central Park, that they were under attack by an unknown entity.

Upon arrival, coalition elements demanded release of the vessel, US Central Command said.

Subsequently, five armed individuals debarked the ship and attempted to flee via their small boat.

The Mason pursued the attackers resulting in their eventual surrender, the statement said, adding that the Central Park crew was currently safe.

The statement said that at about 1.41am Sanaa time, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi controlled areas in Yemen toward the general location of the Mason and the Central Park.

The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden about 10 nautical miles from the ships.

The Mason, which is part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, was concluding its response to the Central Park distress call at the time of the missile launches.

There was no damage or reported injuries from either vessel during this incident.

“Maritime domain security is essential to regional stability,” General Michael Erik Kurilla, USCENTCOM commander, said. “We will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure the safety and security of international shipping lanes.”

The Sofia Globe staff

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