Mideast crisis

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 13, 2000

The Associated Press

ADEN, Yemen – U.

Friday, October 13, 2000

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ADEN, Yemen – U.S. forces today evacuated two dozen American sailors injured in an apparent bomb attack on the USS Cole while it was refueling in Yemen, and a U.S. Navy spokesman said the crippled destroyer would be towed back to the United States.

The French Defense Ministry said its army planes had taken 11 of the injured overnight to a military hospital in neighboring Djibouti, where six underwent surgery. Lt. Terrence Dudley, a U.S. Navy spokesman, said the rest were evacuated by planes arriving from a U.S. military base in Germany. It wasn’t clear how seriously the sailors were injured or where they would be taken.

Pentagon officials said that in a cunning slip through Navy security, suicide bombers drove a small boat with explosives up to the guided-missile destroyer as it made a refueling stop in Aden.

The Navy said the toll was six crew members killed, 35 injured and 11 missing.

This morning, officials said the missing sailors were presumed dead.

The USS Cole, one of the world’s most advanced warships, was left slightly tilted in Aden harbor.

”The ship took (in) some water and we are trying to dewater it. But, generally, it is seaworthy and we will tow it to the United States,” said Dudley, of the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet.

The Cole is a $1 billion guided missile destroyer based at Norfolk, Va. It was heading with a crew of about 350 to the Gulf for maritime operations in support of the U.N. embargo against Iraq.

Also on Friday, an explosion rocked the British Embassy 200 miles away in the Yemeni capital, San’a. Windows shattered, but nobody was hurt. Britain’s foreign secretary said a bomb may have been flung into embassy grounds.

Anti-American sentiment has been running high in the Arab world, where protesters have condemned the United States during demonstrations against Israel’s actions in two weeks of deadly clashes in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

Yemen, an impoverished country on the tip of the Arabian Penisula on the Red Sea, is known for its anarchic politics, streak of fundamentalism and routine snatches of Western hostages who generally are exchanged unharmed for government pledges to provide basic services.