At least six American sailors were on this day in October 2000 killed in what was thought to have been a suicide bomb attack on a US Navy destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden.
Eleven others were missing and at least 36 wounded after a massive explosion left the USS Cole badly gashed along one side. US President Bill Clinton said if the explosion was an act of terrorism it was “despicable and cowardly.”
“We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable,” he told reporters.
Witnesses to the explosion described it as being so powerful that buildings near the port shook. It was thought an inflatable raft, packed with high explosives, rammed the USS Cole as it was apparently helping to moor the warship to a buoy.
The explosion left a gash up to 40 feet (12 metres) long in the left side of the destroyer, which listed badly. No one claimed responsibility, however, and the Yemeni authorities said the explosion was not deliberate.
The attack on the USS Cole was the worst on an American target since the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 224 people died.
Analysts thought the man believed to be behind those attacks, Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden, could also be behind the bombing of the warship.
The ship was heading to the Gulf to join the US-led maritime interception operations in support of UN sanctions against Iraq.
A BBC correspondent in Cairo said American embassies in the region had already been the focus of angry demonstrations by crowds, who believed Washington was siding unfairly with Israel in the bout of renewed fighting with the Palestinians.
Just over an hour before the attack on the USS Cole, a mob lynched three Israeli soldiers after they took a wrong turning into Palestinian territory in the West Bank town of Ramallah. They mutilated their bodies before leaving them in the street.