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USS Cole Investigation: Yemeni President Calling Attack 'Criminal'

Aired October 16, 2000 - 2:08 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The search for those behind the suspected terrorist attack on the USS Cole is intensifying in the Port of Aden. Yemeni security forces are releasing dozens of shipyard workers they have interrogated over the past few days. The Yemeni president is calling the attack, which killed 17 American sailors, "criminal." He had at first suggested that it might have been an accident.

We will have a live report from the Port of Aden. CNN's Matthew Chance is there in a moment. But first naval officers say 33 of the sailors were injured in the attack on the Cole are elated to be back in the United States. They came home late yesterday.

Joining us now, Rear Admiral Clinton Adams, who is director of the medical center in Portsmouth, Virginia, where many of the injured are being treated.

Admiral, how are your patients from the Port of Aden doing today?

REAR ADM. CLINTON ADAMS, U.S. NAVY MEDICAL CORPS: They are doing fantastically, they have had a great night of reunion with their family. Many of them -- many of which slept in the hospital with them last night.

This morning, they have had some debriefing with our sprint team for psychological support, as they transition back into the stateside assignments with their families.

WATERS: Tell us about the sprint team. We understand that many of them have yet to come to grips with what happened to them.

ADAMS: That is very normal for this type of life crisis. We -- we have begun getting them to talk and to reach down and deal with the emotions, the obvious emotions that they've had to face over the last four or five days.

This is the beginning of the process. We will continue to work with them closely as they request.

WATERS: Is this conceivably a life-long process?

ADAMS: Well, you always worry about those things when it affects you so deeply, your shipmates, you know, that's always -- always a possibility. That's why we have learned to work so -- so soon and so closely and make it one of our number-one priorities.

WATERS: We also understand that several others of the injured may be coming home maybe tomorrow or the next day from Ramstein. Can you tell us about that and the nature of their injuries?

ADAMS: Absolutely. We are very excited about receiving at least four of the remaining six, here at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. They basically have orthopedic injuries, broken bones that have been set. And obviously, they were not ready to move so soon.

WATERS: Thank you very much, doctor. Rear Admiral Clinton Adams from the Medical Center at Portsmouth, Virginia. Thanks for taking time to share with us what's going on there.

Now we are going to get to Matthew Chance. We mentioned the investigation and the Yemeni president's declaration that the attack on the USS Cole was a criminal act. We have CNN's Matthew Chance at the Port of Aden keeping watch on things there.

Matthew, what's the latest?


Well, the latest is we've just stop out of a press briefing by the U.S. military authorities here on the ground. They are reporting good progress on the investigation into exactly what happened on the USS Cole on Thursday. The crew are reported to be in good morale.

Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, who is the commander of the task force looking after the operation, said 50 percent of the crew have been rotated on to other ships for a night for a good meal and good shower. They have been put back on work, put back on to the ship in the morning, like they did the night before.

Electricity and water supplies that had been severed on board the USS Cole have apparently now been restored. While divers and explosive experts are at work around the ship, trying to conduct that investigation. Also trying to find the remains of those missing sailors, that's one of the things that came out in the media conference there was that some of the bodies are trapped in the wreckage, and it is quite a slow process that the admiral said, trying to cut their remains free.

Well, on the investigation itself, though, they say they are still following a number of strands. But they say it is still too early yet to reach any final conclusion -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, CNN's Matthew Chance, in the Yemeni Port of Aden.

Now to the Pentagon. Let's see what's happening there. Our military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre is covering us there today again -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, Navy officials tell us this morning that there was a little misunderstanding yesterday about exactly what happened to the ship over the weekend.

It was reported by the Admiral Fitzgerald there that a bulkhead collapsed. The Navy said that the admiral misspoke, that in fact what happened was a seal that goes around one of the drive shafts was cracked, and when they had a problem losing the power with some of the pumps that was pumping the water out that created additional pressure and that seal failed and resulted in some additional flooding.

The power is back over the weekend. The pumps are working again. And they are continuing to stabilize the ship. They have to, because of the hole in the side of the ship, the have to keep pumping the water out at a faster rate than it is coming in in order to keep the ship stabilized. But they say they are doing that.

Meanwhile, the Navy divers have examined the area around the ship. They have found, I'm told, from Pentagon sources, small pieces of white fiberglass that would indicate that the small boat containing explosives that pulled up next to Cole was some kind of a fiber glass hull, or at least had major portions of it constructed of fiber glass, but they haven't drawn any more conclusion about that.

They do tell us that there are no bodies in the harbor in the water. The bodies that are still in the wreckage include two that are in a flooded compartment. They know who -- they have identified those bodies, they just haven't been able to recover them. And also, additional bodies that are in the wreckage of the mess deck.

But the Navy over the weekend brought in an additional two dozen engineers with 10 tons of heavy equipment, special cutting tools, and other equipment, and they are now confident they will able to recover the remains -- the additional remains in the next two or three days. That while plans continue to be made to bring the ship back to Norfolk for repairs -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre, keeping watch at the Pentagon. And we will keep track of these stories throughout the day of course.



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