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Four Sailors Confirmed Dead, Others Wounded, Missing after Attack on USS Cole

Aired October 12, 2000 - 9:47 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Another story that is perhaps related, we have not been able to establish that yet, which is the explosive attack on the USS Cole, the Navy destroyer.

For more on that we want to bring in our military affairs correspondent, Jamie McIntyre who has arrived at the Pentagon and has new information on the situation.

Jamie, what do you have?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, as always in these kinds of situations, the initial reports -- the reports change after we get the initial reports, somewhat. So, it's a little bit murkier now, exactly what happened. It still looks like there was some kind of an attack on this U.S. ship. But it's not clear exactly, and I will review some of this.

But first, just to up to update you. There are four dead, now we're told as many as 12 missing soldiers and more than 30 injured after the USS Cole, an Aegis Class destroyer was apparently rammed by a small boat today that may have been carrying high explosives. The resulting explosion blasted a hole 40 by 20 feet in the hull of the ship, right at the water line. That resulted in some extensive flooding, and, as I said, those extensive injuries.

Right now, the immediate task is to give medical attention to the injured sailors, some of whom were injured severely, some of whom were burned fairly severely. There is a hospital in Yemen. This happened in the port Aden in Yemen. There is a nearby hospital that had just recently been surveyed by the U.S. military that has some 35 beds. It's said to be a good hospital facility, so that might be used. In addition, additional medical personnel are being flown by the scene from the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain as well as members of what's called FAST. That's the Fleet Anti-terrorist Support Team, a group of about 70 Marines, specially trained to deal with terrorist incidents.

Now, that said, the Pentagon not is still not saying officially they believe this was a terrorist attack, although all the early indications indicate that. The first report we had was that a inflatable boat -- the type of boat that is like what's called a Zodiac, which is a boat with inflatable pontoons on the outside -- was the kind of boat that crashed into the USS Cole, the Aegis destroyer. Now we're told that, perhaps, the boat might have been not an inflatable craft, but, in fact, a small boat. The kind of which that might be used to assist with lines and tending in the harbor. This is a busy harbor area in a -- and so there were -- there's a lot of small craft and a lot of boat traffic that would have not necessarily created any suspicion, so it's not clear at this point whether this explosion was in fact the result of explosives on a boat, or whether it could have possibly be an accident. Although at this point being, it's treated as a suspected terrorist event.

That said, the U.S. Is putting all of its fleet, all of its forces in the area, on an even higher state of alert. And in fact, all of the ships of the fifth fleet now ordered to go out to sea as a precautionary measure.

This ship, the USS Cole, was only supposed to be in port for 4-6 hours to do this refueling, and it's presence was not advertised ahead of time. So if this turns out to be a terrorist attack, the Pentagon sources say that it would have been well-planned and very sophisticated, and perhaps even the result of some inside information about the exact timing of when the USS Cole would have been in port.

Just a recap for you, four sailors dead, more than 30 injured, some with severe burns, and 12 sailors missing as a result of this explosion in the port of Aden in Yemen -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jamie, we have heard the information about the four soldiers that were killed and the 30 injured. The 12 missing, though, that is new information. What about search and rescue information to find those sailors?

MCINTYRE: Well, obviously, they're looking for them. Part of the problem is that this explosion resulted in extensive flooding on the USS Cole, including apparently some of the engine compartments, which is the engineering compartment, which is the sort of largest area of the ship.

Right now, it doesn't look like the ship is in danger of sinking. Although it is listing 40 degrees to one side, and there's a lot of damage control going on the ship while they look for -- they try to account for anybody who might have been injured or killed. So it's possible the death toll could go higher in this.

It doesn't look like the ship will sink at this point, although it's got limited power and no communications coming from the ship that indicates that the electrical system was also damaged. So this ship was severely damaged in this attack, if it urns out to be an attack.

KAGAN: So there are still people on board?

MCINTYRE: There's A crew of over 300 sailors on the ship. They are on the ship trying to control the damage, stabilize the situation, make sure that medical attention is given to those, and to search for anything who might be missing, either in the water or on the ship.

KAGAN: And we put up an 800 number for folks who have loved one on board the USS Cole. What's the home port for this ship?

MCINTYRE: This ship is ported out of Norfolk, Virginia. And so there will be some very concerned families, obviously, in Norfolk Virginia, and the Navy says that only those families should call this 800 number where they will give them the latest information they have in order to try to reassure whether they're loved ones are the ones that are involved in this incident.

KAGAN: Absolutely.

OK, Jamie McIntyre, we'll let you go gather some more information, have you back later in the morning.

Thank you very much.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's keep it to the nation's capital. Live to the White House, Kelly Wallace.

First things first, Kelly, with two different stories running in two different parts of the world, but geographically, they are in proximity from overseas. Let's start with the USS Cole. Reaction now from the White House is what?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Bill. The president was said to be horrified about learning about this explosion and the loss of life. U.S. officials say that the federal government is doing everything it possibly can to help the soldiers on board. In addition to what Jamie reported that the Navy sending an anti-terrorism security team to the region, U.S. officials saying the FBI is also sending in local resources.

As Jamie is saying, U.S. officials saying here as well, that they will -- quote -- we will fully investigate this, investigate the possibility that this was a terrorist attack of some kind. Although, U.S. officials saying they have not yet reached that conclusion.

Mr. Clinton was notified about this earlier this morning. He is up in Chappaqua, New York at his home there. He is expected to return to the White House a lit bit later this morning, or early this afternoon.

Mr. Clinton also spoke with his defense secretary, William Cohen, and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger. Mr. Clinton telling them that they should do everything possible to track down those responsible. We also understand the president received a call from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Blair expressing his condolences to the U.S. president about the loss of life -- Bill.



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