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USS Cole Loses Power, More Flooding

October 15, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The hobbled USS Cole lost power and took on more water in Yemen’s harbor on Sunday, and the Clinton administration renewed its pledge to be ``relentless″ in tracking down those responsible for its bombing.

In what he called ``a minor setback″ to recovery operations, naval operations chief Adm. Vern Clark said the ship’s crew was working to restore electrical power needed for communications and to pump water out of the destroyer, which has a huge hole in its hull.

``They’re heroes _ they’re fighting for their ship,″ he said on CBS’ ``Face the Nation.″

The power had been restored Thursday after a suspected terrorist bombing blew a 40-by-40 foot hole in the Cole, killing 17 sailors.

But officials said the generator system inexplicably failed again Sunday, stopping pumps and causing additional flooding.

The crew brought the flooding under control, Clark said.

Meantime, Defense Secretary William Cohen said there was no doubt that the explosion was an intentional bombing.

``We don’t know who did it but ... we’re satisfied this was clearly an act of terrorism,″ he said on CBS.

``We will be relentless in tracking down the individuals or groups who are responsible for this and we will see to it that they are held accountable″

President Clinton’s national security adviser defended the Navy’s decision to dock ships in Yemen. Sandy Berger said limited fueling options in the Persian Gulf require such stops despite the high risk of terrorism.

``This entire area is a high threat area. The military has taken substantial steps in this area,″ he said on NBC’s ``Meet the Press.″

Berger said 25 ships have refueled in the Arabian Peninsula port of Aden in the past 18 months ``without incident.″

``Obviously we have to find out what if anything happened in this particular case,″ Berger said.

U.S. officials believe the ship was the target of a suicide attack from a small vessel packed with powerful explosives. If terrorism is proved, it would be the deadliest such attack on the U.S. military since the bombing of an Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed 19.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on ABC’s ``This Week″ that she thinks the inquiry is ``moving″ and the United States is ``getting a lot of people in there.″

Among the names mentioned in the wake of the bombing has been Osama bin Laden. The United States accuses bin Laden of organizing a network with followers across the Mideast, including Yemen, and says he masterminded the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 people.

Clinton, in a letter Saturday to Republican congressional leaders, said more than 100 military personnel, plus two Navy warships, were sent to Yemen to help with security, communications and medical needs.

Berger said the Defense Department is investigating whether future ships will continue to refuel in the area.

``We need to wait for a very thorough review and determine if anything more could have been done and should have been done,″ he said.

Aden’s convenient deep-water port had been used as a refueling point for U.S. warships for about two years. Discussions also had been started on a possible permanent U.S. facility around Aden _ near the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and near the important straits at the southern end of the Red Sea.

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