Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam

The USS Mason, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, glides past a news conference as former Gov. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe speaks at a waterside lectern in 2021 in Norfolk, Virginia. Steve Helber / AP photo

The crew of a Bath-built destroyer on Sunday foiled the hijacking of an Israeli tanker ship in the Middle East and later evaded a missile attack, officials said.

The USS Mason, which was commissioned in 2003, responded to a distress call from the Central Park merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen, the country where Hamas-supporting Houthi forces are suspected of launching missile and drone strikes targeting Israel in recent weeks. Five armed people used a small boat to board the Central Park, according to U.S. Central Command. The ship’s crew barricaded themselves in the tanker’s armored citadel room, USNI News reported.

The Mason was one of several ships and aircraft belonging to an international anti-piracy task force that responded to the distress call.

“Coalition elements demanded release of the vessel,” Central Command said in a statement. “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.”

There were “initial indications” that the hijackers are Somali, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told the media during a news conference Monday. He said the possibility that Houthis were involved in the hijacking is one aspect that’s being investigated.

“We’re continuing to assess the situation,” Ryder said.


After the hijackers were captured, two missiles were fired in the direction of the Mason and the Central Park from a Houthi-controlled part of Yemen, but the missiles landed harmlessly in the water about 10 nautical miles from the ships, according to Central Command.

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

The Central Park, which is managed by a company owned by Israel’s wealthy Ofer family, was carrying phosphoric acid, according to Reuters.

Earlier this month, Houthi forces hijacked an Israeli cargo ship in the Red Sea and diverted the vessel to Yemen, where it was holding the ship’s 25 crew members hostage. Houthi forces last month were also suspected of launching a barrage of missiles and drones targeting Israel that were shot down by the USS Carney in the Red Sea. Like the Mason, the Carney was built at Bath Iron Works.

Asked if the U.S. was considering military action against the Houthis, Ryder said, “We’re going to protect our forces, and if those forces are threatened, we’ll take appropriate action to respond.”

Houthis are a Shiite Muslim group battling Yemen’s Sunni Muslim majority. The group has repeatedly threatened Israeli and U.S. forces amid the Israel-Hamas war. U.S. officials have also reported an increase in attacks on American bases in Iraq and Syria since the war began, stoking fears it could spread into a wider conflict.

The Mason was named in honor of two previous destroyer ships also named Mason. One, commissioned in 1920, was named after John Young Mason, who served as secretary of the Navy; the other, commissioned in 1944, was named after Newton Henry Mason, a pilot killed during the Battle of Coral Sea in World War II.

Israel Palestinians Ship Attack

The tanker Central Park appears in an undated photo released by Zodiac Maritime. Attackers seized the tanker linked to Israel on Sunday off the coast of Aden, Yemen, authorities said. While no group immediately claimed responsibility, it comes as at least two other maritime attacks in recent days have been linked to the Israel-Hamas war.Zodiac Maritime via AP


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