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U.S. Denies Reports of an Attack on U.S.-Flagged Cargo Ship

Ocean Jazz
Ocean Jazz during a deployment for exercise Hanuman Guardian 2017, operating in support of U.S. exercises in the Pacific (Military Sealift Command)

Published Jan 22, 2024 4:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy has denied Houthi militants' claims of an attack on the geared container ship Ocean Jazz, a U.S.-flagged vessel operating in the Red Sea.

In a statement Monday, Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said that Houthi forces carried out a missile attack "targeting an American military cargo ship (Ocean Jazz)." He did not specify whether the claimed attack had been successful. 

"Retaliation against American and British attacks is inevitable," he said. U.S. and UK forces have struck back at Houthi missile launch points multiple times in an attempt to stem the Houthis' recurring strikes on merchant shipping. 

U.S. 5th Fleet said that any Houthi claims of a successful attack were "patently false," and said that it had been in constant communication with Ocean Jazz throughout the ship's transit. 

The Houthis' political objective is to pressure Israel to halt its operations in Gaza. Saree said that Houthi attacks on shipping will continue "until a ceasefire in Gaza is achieved, and the siege is lifted."

Reuters reports that the government of Iran has operatives on the ground in Yemen to advise the Houthis on target selection and technical operations. Most of the advanced anti-ship munitions used by Houthi forces are Iranian-designed or Iranian-supplied, according to open-source analysts and U.S. military sources. 

The Ocean Jazz is a foreign-built, U.S.-flagged heavy lift ship, and it frequently carries military cargoes. Its manifest on this voyage is not known. On January 14, it called at a pier next to the U.S. military base in Souda Bay, Crete, based on AIS data. 

Its AIS signal was last observed off Safaga, Egypt on January 18, according to data provided by Pole Star. Many vessels have been disabling their AIS systems when near Houthi territory.