Once the coalition ships arrived, the task force demanded the release of the civilian vessel, according to DOD. The Central Park is a small, Liberian-flagged tanker managed by London-based company Zodiac Maritime. The five individuals then left the ship and fled aboard a small boat.
The Mason pursued, firing gunshots at the boat, but did not cause any injury, Ryder said. The U.S. Navy crew apprehended the attackers, who are onboard the Mason.
About an hour and a half later, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen “toward the general location” of the Mason, according to DOD. The ship tracked the missiles, which landed harmlessly in the Gulf about 10 nautical miles away, but did not attempt to shoot them down, Ryder said.
DOD is still assessing whether the Mason was the intended target of the attack, Ryder said. If it was, the move would mark the first time Houthi rebels have deliberately targeted U.S. maritime forces with missiles in the Gulf since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
Meanwhile, the tally of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria has risen to 73 since Oct. 17, Ryder told reporters. However, the last attacks occurred on Thursday.
Ryder declined to link the lack of attacks to the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas, which began Friday and was initially slated to end at midnight on Monday Eastern time. The two parties have agreed to extend the truce for two days, Qatari negotiators announced Monday.
The developments come as the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group entered the Persian Gulf on Sunday, the military announced.