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Boat Hits USS Cole in Yemen Port; 4 Sailors Killed

Aired October 12, 2000 - 10:14 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, though, Daryn mentioned the USS Cole destroyer, located in the port of Aden earlier today. That's in a Yemeni port on the Arabian peninsula. It had been hit earlier today, apparently by a floatable boat that rammed the side of the boat, this aegis destroyer. The word we have is that four U.S. soldiers have been killed. More than 31 others have been injured, many of them suffering severe burns. In addition to that, getting word through folks at the Pentagon that up to 12 U.S. Navy sailors could be missing at this time.

David Ensor live to Washington. Let's pick things up with him and see what's he's gathering thus far today.

David, what are officials saying, and what are you gathering?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me start with Middle East, if I may, Bill, concerning George Tenet, the CIA director's role there. He was there to try to get the security chiefs of the Palestinians and Israelis together again, and try to get them cooperating to try and lower the level of tension, to prevent more killing.

Unfortunately, as one official I spoke to today put it, with one security force having failed to present the killing of two members of another, that is very, very difficult indeed at this point. And we heard Rula Amin on the air just a short time ago reporting that she now understands that Mr. Tenet didn't meet with Chairman Arafat. That's what I heard from a CIA spokesman who said he not able to confirm such a meeting was taking place. In fact, officials are not even saying where Mr. Tenet is, where he's headed, obviously for reasons having to do with own personal safety in this very, very volatile situation at this point.

Now turning to Yemen, the operating -- officials are stressing that they're not yet saying this was a terrorist incident. As Jamie McIntyre reported from the Pentagon, they are not yet able to say with any great confidence what caused the explosion, although they are Looking at the idea that that may have been, probably was, a terrorist incident. And in that regard, officials I spoke to see two possibilities just on the political side. One is to point out that Osama Bin Laden, the alleged terrorist mastermind, has family ties and business ties in Yemen. He knows a lot of people there, and it would not be impossible that his organization could have been involved in a terrorist incident against the ship. Another possibility that some analysts say can't be ruled out would be the Iraqis, in the sense the ship was set to patrol the area in the gulf where the U.S. Navy is involved in sanctions enforcement against Iraq, so there might have been motive there for Iraqis to be involved.

Again, nobody saying yet whether this was a terrorist incident, but already trying to figure out who could have been involved, if it was -- Bill.

HEMMER: What seems to be quite curious, David, is the report we're getting from Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon there, Is that the refueling stop that was planned anywhere from 4-6 hours was not scheduled or not announced anyway. Given that, one may assume that if indeed there was a terrorist attack, there was some surveillance underway of U.S. ships moving throughout the area. Safe conclusion or not?

ENSOR: Well, you know, if you have the resources in place in Aden to commit a terrorist act, in case an opportunity arises, I suppose you don't need to know very much with very much advanced notice. But this is not a small ship. It is easy to watch from the coastline, as it moves through narrow waterways around there. So it's quite possible that there was some advance notice obtained by those who did this, assuming it was a terrorist act, Bill.

HEMMER: David, said to be listing at about four degrees. That was the last word we heard. Is this ship in danger of completely sinking in the waters?

ENSOR: I'm not an expert on the technology of those ships, but I would say, no, it is not. They say that they have stopped the flooding. Thing under control. The crew is still on it, working actively. It sounds as if the ship can be repaired.

HEMMER: All right, we're going to talk with a retired U.S. Navy captain momentarily here at the CNN Center, David.

David Ensor live in Washington. Thank you, David. And we will try and address those issues shortly.

In the meantime, though, for U.S. families who have an interest in what's happening on board the USS Cole, 800-369-3202. That's the casualty information line set up for families only, and again, the U.S. military stresses that allow only families to call this number in order for them to access complete information as to what's happening there, said to be about 350 sailors aboard that ship.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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