Suicide attack kills American sailors

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The Independent Online

At least four American sailors have been killed in Yemen after their US Navy ship was hit by a rubber raft packed with explosives.

At least four American sailors have been killed in Yemen after their US Navy ship was hit by a rubber raft packed with explosives.

At least 36 other were injured, five seriously, and one is still missing, a Navy spokesman said.

The explosion at 9.15pm GMT on the port side at the waterline of the USS Cole DDG-67 created a 20-by-40 feet hole on the destroyer.

The destroyer, part of the 5th Fleet, had been refueling in the Yemeni port city of Aden.

The cause of the explosion on the 9,100-ton destroyer is being investigated, but the US says it was likely a "suicide bombing" attack.

Paul Beaver, spokesman for the Jane's Group of security affairs researchers, said there were three main terrorist suspects.

They are Hamas, based in the Palestinian areas; Hezbollah based in Lebanon; and agents of Afghan-based Osama bin Laden.

"Osama bin Laden has recently been quite critical of Yemen for allowing the U.S. to use it as a refueling stop," Beaver said.

Washington accuses bin Laden of organizing a militant network with followers across the Mideast, including Yemen, and says he masterminded 1998 bombings against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people.

The US confirmed a small rubber raft was seen approaching the destroyer immediately prior to the explosion.

US Attorney General Janet Reno declined to comment on a possible terrorist link. She said a team of FBI agents was en route and officials were discussing issuing a worldwide terrorist alert at U.S. installations.

Because the Cole had just arrived in Aden and was due to remain there only for four hours to take on fuel, US 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, said Lt Cmdr Daren Pelkie of the 5th Fleet.

The region has been swept in recent weeks by demonstrations, some of them violent and often with an anti-US tone, sparked by Israeli-Palestinian clashes in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Pro-Palestinian rallies have been held daily in Yemen. Arabs see the United States as siding with Israel.

The explosion was heard all over Aden and ambulances were seen rushing to the port. Flooding on the Arleigh Burke Class destroyer following the explosion was contained and no fires have been reported, Dudley said.

The US 5th Fleet has more than a dozen ships, including an aircraft carrier, in the region.

Yemen is on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula on the Red Sea. Aden is 190 miles south of San'a, the capital.