Yemen’s Houthis said Wednesday that their military successfully downed a US MQ-9 Reaper drone that was flying off the coast of Yemen. A US official later confirmed that the Houthis downed an American drone and said the US was analyzing the incident.
The Houthis, formally known as Ansar Allah, have been firing missiles and drones toward Israel and say the attacks will keep up until the Israeli onslaught on Gaza comes to an end. In a statement, the Houthis said the US drone that was downed was deployed to back Israel.
“Our air defenses were able to down an American MQ-9 while it was carrying out hostile surveillance and espionage activities in Yemeni territorial waters as part of American military support for Israel,” the statement said.
The downing of the drone raises questions about a potential American response. In October, the Pentagon said a US warship in the Red Sea had intercepted drones and missiles the Houthis fired toward Israel.
The US has backed the Saudi-led coalition against Houthis in a brutal war in Yemen since 2015, although a ceasefire has held relatively well since April 2022. The US also has a military presence in Yemen, but it’s unclear how many US troops are stationed there.
US troops are in Yemen nominally to fight al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Houthis were briefly a partner of the US in the fight against AQAP before the Obama administration backed the coalition against them.