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6 dead, dozens hurt in Navy ship attack; at least one Baptist confirmed on board

NORFOLK, Va. (BP)–Six U.S. sailors are dead, 36 injured and 12 missing after an apparent terrorist attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer today in the Middle Eastern port city of Aden, Pentagon officials said. Meanwhile, local Southern Baptist churches are mobilizing relief efforts to minister to the families of the sailors aboard the USS Cole.

At least one Southern Baptist sailor was aboard the USS Cole, according to Helen Spore, a communication specialist at First Baptist Church, Norfolk. “We’ve met with his wife and their three children this morning,” Spore said. “It’s a very difficult time not knowing.”

There was no word on the status of the sailor, she said.

David Mullis, associate for military chaplaincy with the North American Mission Board, told Baptist Press there was likely not a Southern Baptist chaplain or any other chaplain actually on board the USS Cole when it was hit. However, he confirmed that Southern Baptist chaplains are based in Norfolk and would be available for assisting families.

Spore said First Baptist sponsors a military wives encouragement group that was meeting Oct. 12. “It was definitely a topic of conversation and it was a coincidence that they were meeting on the morning of the attack” Spore said.

Pat Daniels, office administrator for the Norfolk Baptist Association, said their office has been extremely busy coordinating retired Baptist chaplains and pressing them into service.

“We’ve also extended our help to the military, offering to find them a church site for the families to come together and to find housing for families coming into the area,” Daniels said.

In addition, the Norfolk Baptist Association said two churches, Kempsville Baptist Church and Ocean View Baptist Church, will be open throughout the night for prayer services.

Rob Edwards, pastor of discipleship at Ocean View, and a former reserve chaplain in the Air Force, said anyone is welcome to come and pray at their church.

“We’re about a half mile from the base and we’re pretty convenient,” Edwards said. “The town is on edge today and what we’ve heard is a great deal of concern for our sailors.”

The explosion that tore a hole in the side of the USS Cole during a refueling stop at a facility in Aden, Yemen, was the work of two terrorists on a suicide mission, Pentagon officials have told ABCNEWS.

At the White House, President Clinton pledged action. “If, as it now appears, this was an act of terrorism, it was a despicable and cowardly act. We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable,” Clinton told reporters.

“If their intention was to deter us from our mission of promoting peace and security in the Middle East, they will fail utterly,” he said.

The FBI is coordinating with the Naval intelligence service, said Steven Berry, supervisory special agent at the FBI’s national press office. The FBI’s legal attaché from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is being dispatched to the scene.

The Cole, a Norfolk, Va.-based destroyer armed with conventional missiles and torpedoes, was in Aden while on a refueling stop as it traveled from the Red Sea to Bahrain.

The Navy has issued an information line, 1-800-368-3202, for the families of the sailors.

The Navy also has established a gathering place for the families at the Norfolk base, said Adm. John Foley, where they can receive information updates, legal assistance and counseling.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: USS COLE. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy.

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  • Todd Starnes