Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Houthis used Remote Controlled Suicide Boat to Blast Saudi Warship; Iran and China Blamed for Attack

New weapon

(Photo : RSN) Houthi drone boat about the explode against the Royal Saudi Navy frigate, Al Madinah.

The U.S. Navy confirms it was a new Houthi weapon -- an unmanned, remote controlled suicide boat packed with explosives -- that blasted and heavily damaged the Royal Saudi Navy (RSN) guided missile frigate RSN Al Madinah (F702) last Jan. 30 in the Red Sea, and not a ballistic missile as claimed by the Houthis.

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New video footage released by the RSN shows a speeding drone boat about to smash into the port stern quarter of the Al Madinah. The blast killed two Saudi sailors.

The U.S. Navy also said the technology to build the boat was supplied by Iran aided by "others," an indirect reference to China that has supplied Iran with many of its missiles and weapons.

Shiite Iran is the main military backer of the Shiite Houthis, who are fighting to conquer all of Yemen and turn it into a Shia state after ousting its duly elected president supported by a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.

The attack on the Al Madinah is the first confirmed use of a remote controlled suicide boat by the Houthis, or by any other Islamist terrorist group for that matter.

"Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind," said Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, commander of the United States Fifth Fleet and head of United States Naval Forces Central Command based in Bahrain.

Admiral Donegan also said the Houthis are the first to have deployed this new weapon in the field. He also believes the suicide boat was supplied by Iran.

"I don't know that it's Iranian-built, but I believe that its production in some way was supported by Iran," said Admiral Donegan.

He also pointed out a remote controlled suicide boat "is 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. There's clearly support there coming from others, so that's problematic."

"Here's how I connect those dots. About a year ago we began and were successful in interdicting about four weapons shipments of things going to Yemen."

He said the U.S. gave the United Nations access to all the weapons it got from one of the interdictions, which wrote a report about it.

"They said specifically that the weapons came from Iran and were destined for Yemen in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. That's not my assessment. That's the United Nations' assessment.

Admiral Donegan said "others" might be supporting both the Houthis and Iran, which seems to be a veiled reference to China.

"Maybe there's others supporting them, I don't know. But for certain these things aren't indigenous. There are parts and components that need to be coming from other places to make them effective like this."

Immediately after the attack, Iranian state media claimed Houthi militants used a guided missile against the RSN warship. Iranian media quoted an analyst as claiming the warship was indeed struck by an anti-ship missile.

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