Houthis Threaten Reprisal Attacks On U.S. Bases In The Region

The Iranian-backed Houthis have threatened to attack any nation in the region that allows its bases to be used by the U.S.-led campaign against it. The group also claimed that a U.S. Navy Tomahawk missile attack on one of its radar sites early Saturday morning local time caused little damage.

“This new strike will have a firm, strong and effective response,” Nasruldeen Amer, a Houthi spokesperson, told Al Jazeera, adding there had been no injuries nor “material damages.”

The group said it has developed a “target list” for retaliatory strikes. The U.S. has troops at muliple bases around the region, including airbases in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the headquarters of the 5th Fleet in Bahrain, and bases in Iraq, Kuwait and Syria. But, as we’ve previously noted, sprawling Camp Lemonnier, located in Djibouti, sits just 80 miles across the Bab al-Mandab Strait from Yemen. The base has been used for U.S. operations in Yemen for years, as well as a key facility for America’s support of the Saudi-led Arab coalition against the Houthis.

“We affirm to everyone that the field is open and there’s no limit, even if it extends to vital points and American bases in other countries, whether strategic, military or etc.” Houthi political bureau official Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti said in an interview with the Hezbollah-linked Al Mayadeen TV outlet. “Certainly, we have a list of targets and that depends on the escalation by America and also depends on the stances of countries and whether they allow or forbid their bases from being used. There is no elaboration on this for now.”

The Houthis also released imagery showing its troops training with a variety of weapons, including a Soviet-era T-80 tank, Soviet-era Zu-23-2 autocannon, an Iranian-made AM-50 Sayyad anti-material rifle and several assault rifles.

Despite the threats, there have been no Houthi attacks on U.S. or allied assets in the region as of Saturday morning Eastern time, a U.S. defense official told The War Zone Saturday morning.

The latest strike, launched by the the Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Carney came after what CENTCOM said was the 28th Houthi attack on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab and Gulf of Aden. The Houthis appeared to target the Panama-flagged Aframax tanker Khalissa with an anti-ship ballistic missile earlier Friday. This ship has also been previously identified as part of a “dark fleet” of tankers the Russian government has been using to help move its oil around the world and evade sanctions from various countries.

The attack on the radar site followed U.S. and U.K. aircraft, surface ship and submarine attacks on more than 60 targets hit at 28 sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen on Jan. 11.

There was “no significant impact” on the group’s ability to prevent Israel-affiliated vessels from passing through the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea from either set of strikes, Mohammed Abdulsalam, another Houthi spokesperson, told Reuters.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defense on Saturday took pains to distance itself from the attacks on Houthi facilities, the Straits Times reported.

While his troops are taking part are taking part in an international maritime security force formed to respond to attacks on shipping vessels by Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, they have no role in attacks on Houthi sites in Yemen.

Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG) “is unrelated to the military strikes against the Houthis,” the statement added.

Before departing the White House today, President Joe Biden was asked by reporters if he had “a message to Iran in the face of all these attacks from the Houthis?”

“I’ve delivered – we’ve delivered it privately, and we’re confident we’re well prepared,” he said.

Meanwhile, the search continues for two U.S. sailors who went missing at sea while conducting operations off the coast of Somalia Jan. 11, the official told The War Zone, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss operational details.

“The sailors were forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet (C5F) area of operations supporting a wide variety of missions,” CENTCOM said in a statement late Friday night. “For operational security purposes, we will not release additional information until the personnel recovery operation is complete.”

A search is underway for two U.S. sailors missing while conducting operations off the coast of Somalia, U.S. Central Command said in a statement released Friday night. (CENTCOM)

It is unclear what, if any relation the missing sailors have to the ongoing activities in the Red Sea area. The U.S. has a small military presence in Somalia focusing on Al-Shabaab, an extremist Islamist organization that has carried out attacks against the Somali government.

Efforts to combat piracy, a huge problem in the region, especially off Somalia, are handled by Combined Maritime Forces Task Force 151. That country also has hundreds of miles of coastline on the Gulf of Aden. It is notable that the statement about the missing sailors was released by CENTCOM.

“At this time AFRICOM has nothing to provide as CENTCOM has the lead!” LCDR Bobby Dixon, an AFRICOM spokesman, told The War Zone Saturday morning.

The U.S. is searching for two sailors missing off the coast of Somalia. (Google Earth image)

The U.S. official declined to provide further details Saturday morning about how the sailors went missing or from what vessel or aircraft.

Though the Houthis have yet to carry out any retaliatory strikes, they certainly have the capability to do so. As we have previously reported: “the Houthis have a massive and diverse long-range arsenal that has evolved significantly over the better part of a decade of conflict with the Saudi-led coalition.”

This remains a tense situation that is having a huge effect on the global economy.

“We don’t believe that [the strikes] will help short-term,” a shipping industry source told The War Zone on Friday. “Nobody will return immediately to the Red Sea as it is not proven yet that as of today the passage is safe.”

We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates if anything changes over the course of today.

Update: 1:47 PM EST –

Despite reports about a new attack on the port city of Hodeidah in Houthi-controlled Yemen, there have been no U.S. or coalition strikes today, a U.S. defense official told The War Zone.

Update: 5:30 PM EST –

The missing Navy personnel are SEALs who were conducting a nighttime boarding mission Thursday off the coast of Somalia, three U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

The SEALs were on an interdiction mission, climbing up a vessel when one got knocked off by high waves, AP reported. Under their protocol, when one SEAL is overtaken the next jumps in after them.

The U.S. Navy has conducted regular interdiction missions, where they have intercepted weapons on ships that were bound for Houthi-controlled Yemen. The mission was not related to either OPG or the recent airstrikes against the Houthis, a U.S. official told The War Zone Saturday.

Both SEALs are still missing. A search and rescue mission is underway and the waters in the Gulf of Aden, where they were operating, are warm, two of the U.S. officials told the AP.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.