Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy deployed a missile destroyer off the coast of Yemen to protect vessels passing through international waterways, the military said.
A U.S. defense official said the USS Cole was sent to the southwestern coast of Yemen near the Bab al-Mandab Strait on Friday to conduct "presence operations" including escorting duties to help protect vessels passing through the strait, Voice of America reported.
A plan was already in place to move a cruiser or destroyer into the area, but the Houthi suicide attack that killed two Saudi frigate crew members in the Red Sea on Monday accelerated the process, officials said.
Two other warships, the USS Makin Island and the USS Comstock were also deployed near the straight, but a U.S. defense official told Stars and Stripes the USS Cole was sent there "for no other reason than to respond to Bab el Mandeb incidents."
"When we see things like what happened to the Saudi frigate earlier this week take place it gives us great pause," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said. "This is on top of other things we've seen -- to include the well-known missile attempts against U.S. ships last fall -- we've seen evidence that the Houthis are laying mines in the waters outside at least one of their ports. We officially have great concern for the freedom of navigation there."