US deploys guided missile destroyer off Yemeni coast after attack on Saudi warship – reports
The USS Cole, which was targetted in an Al-Qaeda attack off the same shores in 2000, was allegedly redeployed from its operations in the Persian Gulf to a new station in the Bab al-Mandab Strait near Yemen. The USS Comstock and the USS Makin Island are also deployed in the same area as the Cole.
“They were moved down to the region in response to what happened to the Saudi frigate,” an anonymous official familiar with the matter told AFP.
Separately, two other defense officials confirmed the news to Reuters, adding, the USS Cole will now carry out patrols and escort vessels. In addition, Cole’s relocation was also confirmed by an anonymous defense official to USNI News, who called the decision a reaction to the Monday attack in which an alleged Houthi rebel explosive-laden suicide boat rammed into a Saudi Al Madinah-class frigate in the Red Sea.
The US Navy has yet to confirm the deployment.
The deadly “suicide gunboat” attack on the Saudi vessel, which killed two sailors and injured three others, came after a spate of anti-ship missile attacks on UAE and US Navy ships last October.
The attack targeting a Saudi ship was allegedly meant for an American warship, two defense officials told Fox News after the incident.
The USS Cole is now entrusted to protect maritime traffic against the very type of attack the vessel itself was subject to in October 2000. While anchoring in Aden, the USS Cole was attacked by Al-Qaeda suicide bombers, who sailed a small boat near the destroyer and detonated the explosives. The blast blew a 40 feet (12 m) hole in the vessel, killing 17 crew members and injuring 39.
The Navy’s move to reposition the ship came as the Trump administration imposed new Iranian sanctions on 13 people and a dozen companies in response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile test.Washington believes the Houthis, who have been fighting the Saudi-led coalition, are heavily supported by Tehran.
With the new American president in office, some believe Yemen will become an important battleground for the Trump administration’s resolve against Iran’s perceived influence in the region.
Trump’s first major military operation was a Navy SEAL raid on Al-Qaeda in Yemen on January 29.
The US has been a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia; supplying Riyadh with the necessary intelligence, logistics and weapons to prosecute its war in Yemen. Most of the American support came through arms sales which during President Obama tenure in office reached over $110bn.
American munitions, in addition to arms supplied by the UK, has been used by the Saudis in its relentless bombardment campaign which began in March 2015 and has claimed thousands of civilian lives.
On October 8, the Saudi-led coalition admitted to “mistakenly” bombing a funeral in Saana The “double-tap” strike on a mourning hall - in which a second bombing followed the initial strike - hit first responders, and killed at least 140 people and left more than 500 others injured.
Fragments of a Mk-82 precision bomb produced by Raytheon, a major US defense contractor, was reportedly found at the scene. The hall bombing was the biggest officially recorded single loss of civilian lives in the coalition’s campaign in Yemen.
US munition was also allegedly discovered at the scene of what is widely reported as the second most deadly strike by the Saudis in Yemen. The March 15 attack on the Mastaba market claimed the lives of 97 civilians, including 25 children. Commenting on two of the deadliest attacks, Human Rights Watch said in December that “both attacks appear to have been war crimes,” urging the US to stop arming the Saudis.
While refusing to get directly involved in Yemen’s conflict, the US launched retaliatory strikes for attempted attacks on the USS Mason and USS Ponce which were patrolling off the coast of Yemen.
Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen with the stated goal of restoring to power exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee to Riyadh after his term expired. October figures from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), states the Yemen conflict has claimed the lives of at least 4,125 civilians and has left at least 7,207 wounded, with the majority of the casualties caused by coalition airstrikes.