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The BBC's Barbra Plett
"Officials have not yet confirmed this was a terrorist operation"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington
"The US Navy believes it was a suicide attack"
 real 28k

Friday, 13 October, 2000, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Terror alert after US warship blast
Hole in USS Cole
The blast left the vessel badly holed and listing
United States forces abroad have been placed on high alert after a suspected terrorist attack on an American warship in Yemen, killing at least six sailors.

The blast ripped through the USS Cole as it was moored in the port of Aden, leaving a gaping hole in its port side.


I have ordered our ships in the region to pull out of port and our land forces to increase their security.

President Clinton
An operation is under way to search for a further 11 missing sailors. More than 30 sailors were injured by the explosion.

US navy officials believe the blast may have been a suicide attack, after eyewitnesses said two men were seen standing to attention on a small boat which had pulled alongside the USS Cole to help it moor.

A US senator who attended a Pentagon briefing said a possible connection with Saudi terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden was being investigated.

US President Bill Clinton said that if the explosion was, as it appeared, an act of terrorism, it was "despicable and cowardly".

Injured woman in hospital
Dozens of people on board were injured
"We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable," he told reporters.

He has ordered all US flags to fly at half-mast until Monday as a mark of respect for the sailors who died.

American investigators are arriving in Aden to begin work.

Other US ships in the region have put to sea to avoid any risk from staying in port.

The US State Department has also warned Americans worldwide to delay all travel to Yemen, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr Clinton vowed that events would not force a change in US policy in the Middle East.

Map of Yemen
The US has earned criticism for its perceived backing of Israel during the past fortnight of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

A BBC correspondent in Cairo says American embassies in the region have already been the focus of angry demonstrations by crowds who believe Washington is siding unfairly with Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.

In the past Yemenis have been particularly critical of US policies in the region.

Yemen refused to join the US-led coalition against Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and voted against the UN Security Council resolution authorising the use of force to drive Iraq out.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, said after a Pentagon briefing that a group with possible links to Saudi Arabian terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden was claiming to have carried out the attack.

He said Pentagon officials were "in the process of trying to evaluate the validity of the claim."


I have no reason to think that this was anything but a senseless act of terrorism

US Navy Chief of Staff Vern Clark
Witnesses described it as being so powerful that buildings near the port shook.

The Yemeni authorities say the explosion was not deliberate, and insist the explosion took place inside the vessel.

The Americans say otherwise.

"We know it occurred externally. An investigation is under way," the Fifth Fleet's Lieutenant Terrence Dudley told Reuters news agency.

Injured sailor
Officials say at least 36 sailors were hurt
The USS Cole is a guided missile destroyer with a crew of 350. It is armed with standard missiles and torpedoes.

The vessel was heading to the Gulf to join the US-led operation enforcing UN sanctions against Iraq.

It sailed through the Suez Canal on 9 October, down the Red Sea and had called into Aden for refuelling.

The US Fifth Fleet has more than a dozen ships, including an aircraft carrier, in the region.

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Country profile: Yemen
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