Explosive boat-drones used by Yemen rebels 'designed by Iran'

Explosive boat-drones used by Yemen rebels 'designed by Iran'
Video: Remotely controlled explosive boats used by Houthi rebels in Yemen were designed by Iran, a US defence official has suggested.
2 min read
17 March, 2017
Remotely controlled explosive boats used by Houthi rebels in Yemen were designed by Iran, an unnamed US defence official has claimed to US media.

In January, Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi frigate using three "suicide boats," the Saudi Press Agency reported at the time. Two crew members were killed, while three others were injured.

The Houthi movement's al-Masira channel said the explosion was caused by a guided missile, contradicting the Saudi claim.

But Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet and head of US Naval Forces Central Command, said last month that the attack was likely carried out by an "unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind."

Speaking to Defense News, Donegan said that while Iran was not behind the Saudi frigate attack, US intelligence believes that the Iranians helped design the boats.

"That's not an easy thing to develop. There have been many terrorist groups that have tried to develop that; it's not something that was just invented by the Houthis," he said.

"There's clearly support there coming from others, so that's problematic."

The New Arab has not verified the claims.

Iran has long been accused of supplying arms to Houthi rebels in Yemen's war, although Tehran rejects the claims.

The development of an explosive 'drone boat' would represent a significant development in the military capabilities of the rebels, and also potentially cause serious disruption to shipping commerce in the southern Red Sea area.

"With about 64 vessels a day traveling through there, the Bab al-Mandeb, almost all with energy cargoes, any issue of misidentification or misapplication of one of these weapon systems could become an issue with commerce, and that’s what we have to avoid," Donegan said.

On Thursday, Houthi rebels reportedly shot down a Saudi Apache helicopter in Hodeideh province.

Yemeni rebels last shot down an Apache helicopter in the Dhubab neighborhood of Yemen's Taiz province on January 25.

The Houthi rebels first rose up against the government in September 2014, when they aligned with the previous president, Saleh, to bring down the new transitional government.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign to help the internationally recognised government regain control of territory lost to the Houthi rebels.

Figures suggest more than 10,000 people, half of which are civilians, have died since this intervention, while 3 million more were forced into displacement.​

(With input from agencies)