TITLE=U-S SHIP / ATTACK (L UPDATE)
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INTRO: In the Middle East, an apparent terrorist bomb has ripped a massive hole in the side of a U-S Navy destroyer. V-O-A Pentagon Correspondent Alex Belida reports at least five U-S sailors were killed, a dozen are missing, and 36 were injured following the attack Thursday in Yemen.
TEXT: The explosion occurred as the guided missile destroyer U-S-S Cole was entering a fueling facility in Aden harbor. Pentagon officials say it appears the deadly blast originated aboard a small boat involved in the mooring operation.
U-S Defense Secretary William Cohen says if a formal investigation confirms it was a terrorist attack, U-S authorities will not rest until those responsible for what he calls this vicious and cowardly act are apprehended.
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In the wake of this tragedy, I want to be clear about one point -- we will continue to protect our national interests around the world, in the Middle East and elsewhere. No one should doubt our resolve to remain a force for peace and stability. And no one should assume they can force us to retreat. No one should assume they can attack us with impunity.
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The guided-missile destroyer and its crew of about 350 had just arrived in Aden for a brief refueling stop. They were on their way to the Persian Gulf region to take part in maritime interception operations aimed at enforcing the international oil embargo against Iraq.
The explosion tore a huge hole at about the midpoint of the U-S vessel, right at the water line close to one of the main engine rooms. There was extensive flooding but Navy officials say the situation is under control and the ship is in no immediate danger of sinking.
Two other U-S Navy vessels are en route to Aden to assist the Cole. In addition, special medical teams have been dispatched to help the injured sailors.
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The guided missile destroyer had left its port in Norfolk, Virginia in August to begin its six-month deployment.
The Cole is attached to the U-S-S George Washington aircraft carrier battle group. The 15-vessel group was conducting a variety of joint operations in both the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf areas. (Signed)