A video that shows the moment a skiff loaded with explosives rams a Saudi warship in the Mandeb Strait emerged on Sunday, providing new details on last week’s suicide attack by Yemen’s Al Houthi rebels that killed two Saudi sailors and wounded three others.
The footage appears to be from a camera mounted above the rear deck and helicopter landing pad of the Al Madinah, a Saudi frigate. The brief video, posted online by Al Arabiya network on Sunday, shows a small vessel approaching the ship’s stern at high speed just before exploding.
A video posted early last week by Al Masirah TV, a pro-Al Houthi station, showed the frigate as it was attacked. However, because of the camera’s distance it was unclear if a missile or suicide vessel had hit the ship. On Tuesday, the Saudi Press Agency said three suicide vessels had attacked the frigate. The Madinah repelled two but one hit the stern, causing a fire on board, the press agency said.
Al Houthis had previously claimed that they attacked the ship with a missile.
After the attack, the Pentagon offered support to Saudi Arabia and in recent days the US destroyer, the USS Cole, transited the area where the Madinah was attacked, said Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood. Media reports after the suicide bombing indicated that the attack might have been intended for a US ship as translations of the footage posted by Al Masirah TV indicate that those watching the attack were chanting “death to Israel” and “death to America” before the explosion. Sherwood said there were no intelligence reports that said Al Houthi suicide vessel was trying to target a US ship.
In October, just days after Al Houthi fighters severely damaged an Emirati humanitarian ship near the Bab Al Mandab Strait, rebels fired anti-ship missiles at US warships sent to patrol the waters where the Emirati vessel had been attacked. In both instances, the missiles were intercepted by the US ships. In retaliation, the Pentagon ordered a Tomahawk cruise missile strike on the three Al Houthi radar installations that were apparently active during the attacks.
Al Houthi rebels, long considered an Iranian proxy force by Saudi Arabia, have fought for control of Yemen since they overthrew the government there in 2014.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia, backed by other Gulf States, began an air campaign followed by a concerted ground attack, in an effort to retake the country. The United States has supported the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence, aerial refuelling and arms sales, while US Special Operations troops have worked with the Emirati counterterrorism forces in Yemen that are targeting Al Qaida elements there.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, said the administration was putting Iran “on notice” for its apparent hand in the Saudi frigate attack and a recent ballistic missile test.
According to the United Nations, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict.