U.S. Navy Ship in Port Rammed
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A U.S. Navy ship in port on the Arabian Peninsula was struck Thursday by a small boat in an apparent terrorist act that killed at least four Americans and injured at least 30, the Defense Department said. Another sailor was missing.
The registry of the boat was not immediately known, and no one has claimed responsibility, U.S. officials said.
The destroyer USS Cole, with a crew of about 350 sailors, was in port at Aden, Yemen, for refueling when it was rammed and an explosion followed, according to Lt. Cmdr. Daren Pelkie, spokesman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters in Manama, Bahrain.
Details of the incident were sketchy, but officials at the Pentagon said it appeared that the small boat was carrying some form of high-explosive powerful enough to rip a large hole in the side of the U.S. ship.
President Clinton was notified of the incident at his home in Chappaqua, N.Y., by his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, said White House spokesman Jake Siewert. The president called Defense Secretary William Cohen, urging him and Berger to find out what happened.
``He’s obviously troubled by it,″ Siewert said. ``He wants to know what happened.″ Siewert said the incident ``appears to be a terrorist bombing but we don’t know what happened.″
The president also talked by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The ship attack came on a day of new violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Because the Cole had just arrived in Aden and was due to remain there only for four hours to take on fuel, U.S. officials said they believed the boat’s mission was a planned act of terrorism. The ship had transited the Suez Canal on Monday and sailed down the Red Sea before arriving in Aden on the Gulf of Aden, Pelkie said.
U.S. Navy ships commonly stop in Aden for refueling. The region has been swept in recent weeks by demonstrations, some of them violent and often with an anti-U.S. tone, sparked by Israeli-Palestinian clashes in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Pro-Palestinian rallies have been held daily in Yemen.
Thursday’s explosion was heard all over Aden and ambulances were seen rushing to the port. The injured were removed to local hospitals and the Navy was flying a medical team from Bahrain.
At about 12:15 p.m. local time, or 5:15 a.m. EDT, a U.S. Army major who works at the U.S. Embassy in Aden saw a small rubber boat of unknown nationality ram the destroyer, tearing a 20-foot-by-40-foot hole in the port side, Pelkie said.
The spokesman said that in addition to four Americans killed, five were seriously injured and a total of 31 suffered some form of injury. He said one American also was missing.
Flooding aboard the Cole was contained and no fires were reported, the spokesman said. The ship was listing four degrees to its port side after the explosion.
The Cole is a ship of the Burke destroyer class and carries sophisticated Aegis weaponry. Its home port is Norfolk, Va. It was en route to the Persian Gulf.
Yemen is on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula on the Red Sea.
On the Net: USS Cole is at http://www.spear/navy.mil/ships/ddg67/