SLUG: 2-268231 U-S Ship Attack (L only) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: The U-S Navy has issued a revised timetable of events leading to last week's deadly bombing of the destroyer U-S-S Cole in the Yemeni harbor of Aden. V-O-A Pentagon Correspondent Alex Belida reports the new timeline raises fresh questions about how the apparent terrorist attack was carried out.

TEXT: The navy now says the blast occurred nearly two hours after the destroyer had moored for refueling in Aden harbor - not during the mooring operation itself.

Originally, Navy officials said a small boat that assisted in securing the ship's lines or whose movements were masked by the mooring operation pulled aside the Cole and blew up in an apparent suicide attack.

A navy spokesman, Commander Greg Smith, tells V-O-A that any small boats originally involved in the mooring would have typically been gone by the time the explosion occurred. He offers no new explanation of the circumstances leading to the blast, saying that is now a matter for criminal investigators.

However Commander Smith says the navy remains firm in its assessment that the explosion was the result of a terrorist attack and not a refueling accident - although the new timetable confirms refueling was under way.

A navy statement says communications problems, misunderstandings, and erroneous initial reports are to blame. But it acknowledges release of the revised timeline was prompted by an investigative report in the privately-owned Navy Times newspaper. The paper says the new timetable changes the face of the incident from a sneak attack to that of a rogue boat that approached the Cole without the cover of official harbor craft.

That in turn raises questions about how a single boat could have approached without raising the suspicions of armed guards posted on the destroyer's deck as part of the heightened alert status required for the Cole's port visit. (Signed)