5 Detained by U.S. Navy After Failed Attempt to Capture Merchant Ship in Persian Gulf

Image: U.S. Central Command

Five people accused of attempting to hijack a merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden were taken in U.S. Navy custody following the failed attempt, according to U.S. Central Command, which covers the area of the globe between the European, Africa and Indo-Pacific commands.

On Nov. 26, the USS Mason, with allied ships from a U.S. coalition counter-piracy task force and associated aircraft responded to a distress call from the m/v Central Park, a commercial vessel, stating that it was under attack by an unknown entity, according to CENTCOM.

“Upon arrival, coalition elements demanded release of the vessel. Subsequently, five armed individuals debarked the ship and attempted to flee via their small boat,” CENTCOM explained in a statement. “The Mason pursued the attackers resulting in their eventual surrender. The crew of the m/v Central Park is currently safe.”

The crew of Mason, with the ship’s embarked helicopter, pursued the skiff as it headed toward Yemen and ultimately detained the five for questioning, U.S. officials said.

Hours later, at about 1:41 am local time on Nov. 27, two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen toward the general location of the USS Mason and m/v Central Park, but the missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden about ten nautical miles from the ships, according to CENTCOM.

The USS Mason, which is part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, was concluding its response to 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,” CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla said in a statement. “We will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure the safety and security of international shipping lanes.”

The Central Park is an eight-year-old oil/chemical tanker sailing under the flag of Liberia.