US vows `relentless' search for attackers of navy vessel


The United States vowed yesterday to be "relentless" in pursuing the perpetrators of Thursday's attack on a US naval destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden, as most of the wounded travelled towards home.

In an interview with CBS television, the US Defence Secretary, Mr William Cohen, said the United States "will be relentless in tracking down those individuals or groups that were responsible for this" and will "make sure they pay a penalty for it".

The Yemeni President, Mr Ali Abdullah Saleh, who at first vehemently denied the possibility that the blast could have been a terrorist act, has reportedly had a change of heart, according to Mr Cohen.

"He has indicated. . . that he now believes it was in fact an external act, a terrorist act," Mr Cohen said, adding that "he is doing everything that we have asked of him and his government".

Two previously unknown groups, the Islamic Deterrence Forces and Mohammed's Army, claimed responsibility on Friday for the attack, but officials have not yet determined who is responsible.

The blast "has blown a hole in the heart of the American people as well as that ship," he said.

Mr Cohen said that, while the US government does not yet know who perpetrated the act, "it's inconsistent with anything but a terrorist attack, so we're satisfied that this was clearly an act of terrorism."

In the same interview, Adm Vern Clark emphasised the USS Cole properly followed refuelling procedures that had been in place in Aden for the past 19 or 20 months.