Lucas Tomlinson, Jennifer Griffin
The Iranian-backed suicide attack targeting a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen on Monday may have been meant for an American warship, two defense officials told Fox News.
The incident in question occurred in the southern Red Sea and was carried out by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Two Saudi sailors were killed and three were wounded. At first the ship was thought to have been struck by a missile.
But based on new analysis of a video showing the attack, American intelligence officials now believe this was, in fact, a suicide bomber whose small boat rammed the side of the Saudi vessel.
In the audio heard on the video, a voice narrating the attack shouts in Arabic, “Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to the Jews.”
U.S. defense analysts believe those behind the attack either thought the bomber was striking an American warship or that this was a “dress rehearsal” similar to the attack on the USS Cole, according to one official.
The attack, near the Bab al Mandab Strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, occurred in the same area where U.S. Navy warships came under missile attack in October.
An American destroyer shot down those incoming missiles — the first successful engagement in combat using an American SM-2 missile.
USS Nitze, an American destroyer, retaliated soon after, launching Tomahawk missiles on October 13 at multiple Houthi radar sites in Yemen.
This latest incident came a day after President Trump spoke by phone with the Saudi King to discuss setting up safe zones for refugees in Syria and Yemen. Senior U.S. defense officials who spoke with Fox News say they’re concerned by this latest incident, but are confident American warships can defend themselves.
The United States has supported a Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.