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2000: Suicide bombers attack USS Cole
At least six American sailors have been killed in what is thought to have been a suicide bomb attack on a US Navy destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden.

Eleven others are missing and at least 36 wounded after a massive explosion left the USS Cole badly gashed along one side.

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

"We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable," he told reporters.

Buildings shook

Witnesses to the explosion described it as being so powerful that buildings near the port shook.

It is thought an inflatable raft, packed with high explosives, rammed the USS Cole as it was apparently helping to moor the warship to a buoy.

The explosion left a gash up to 40 feet (12 metres) long in the left side of the destroyer, which is now listing badly.

No-one has claimed responsibility, however, and the Yemeni authorities say the explosion was not deliberate.

The attack on the USS Cole is the worst on an American target since the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania two years ago, in which 224 people died.

Analysts believe the man believed to be behind those attacks, Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden, could also be behind the bombing of the warship.

The ship was heading to the Gulf to join the US-led maritime interception operations in support of UN sanctions against Iraq.

Palestinian anger

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 the recent bout of renewed fighting with the Palestinians.

Just over an hour before the attack on the USS Cole, a mob lynched three Israeli soldiers after they took a wrong turning into Palestinian territory in the West Bank town of Ramallah. They mutilated their bodies before leaving them in the street.

The soldiers entered the town just as a funeral was taking place of a 17-year-old Palestinian killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

The attack triggered devastating Israeli rocket attacks across the West Bank and Gaza.

One landed only 160 feet (50 metres) from the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat while he was inside. He was not hurt.

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Damage to USS Cole
The blast blew a hole the size of a house in the side of the ship

In Context
The suicide bomb attack on the USS Cole killed 17 US sailors and injured at least 40.

The two bombers responsible for the attack were identified as Ibrahim al-Thawr and Abdullah al-Misawa, both from Yemen.

Six men were arrested and charged with helping them plan the attack. They were tried in Yemen, although the ringleader, Saudi Arabian Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri, was tried in absentia as he was in US custody after being handed over to Washington on his arrest.

Nashiri was sentenced to death for his part in the bombing, along with Jamal Mohammed al-Bedawi, a Yemeni. Bedawi's sentence was later commuted on appeal to 15 years in jail.

Another four defendants were given jail sentences ranging from five to 10 years.

Nashiri was described as al-Qaeda's chief for naval operations and its operations chief in the Gulf.

He is also suspected of involvement in attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He remains in US custody at an undisclosed location.

The USS Cole was saved and towed out of Aden just over two weeks later. It has since been repaired and is back in service.

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