By Lucas Tomlinson
The Pentagon believes the suicide attack by Iranian- backed Houthi rebels targeting a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen may have been meant for an American warship, two defense officials tell Fox News.
The incident in question occurred in the southern Red Sea Monday. Two Saudi sailors were killed, 3 wounded. At first it was thought to be the result of a missile.
But based on new analysis of a video showing the yesterday's 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 now believe those behind the attack either thought the bomber was striking an American warship or this was a “dress rehearsal” similar to the attack on the USS Cole, according to one official.
The attack Monday near the Bab al Mandab Strait connecting the Red Sea to Gulf of Aden occurred in the same area where US Navy warships came under missile attack in October near the coast of Yemen.
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 two days later launching Tomahawk missiles on October 13 at multiple Houthi radar sites in Yemen - that was in October.
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 US defense officials who we have spoken to today say they are concerned by this latest incident but are confident American warships can defend themselves against
The United States has supported a Saudi-led air campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.