Articles

Dec 08, 2000

U.S. finds link between bin Laden and Cole bombing

December 7, 2000
Web posted at: 10:25 p.m. EST (0325 GMT)
LONDON, England (CNN) — U.S. officials said Thursday there is evidence linking suspects in the October 12 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen with known operatives of accused terrorist Osama bin Laden’s organization.

The officials said the evidence suggests some suspects in the Cole attack, which killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded 39 others, were in contact with bin Laden operatives in East Africa. The officials would not be more specific.

Since the October bombing in the port of Aden, U.S. and Yemeni investigators have said they suspect the attack might have been orchestrated by Al Qaeda, the organization headed by bin Laden dedicated to driving Americans and other Westerners out of the Persian Gulf region.

Bin Laden, a Saudi-born financier, has been accused of ordering the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Sources have identified two key suspects in the attack, who are under arrest in Yemen, as Gamal Al Badawi and Faad Al Quoso. So far, U.S. officials have not been able to question them or sit in on interviews with them by Yemeni officials.

In another development, high-level officials in Yemen told CNN they have established the identity of a prime suspect in the bombing.

The officials said the man, identified as Mohammed Omar Al-Harazi, is a Saudi-born Yemeni, whose family is from the district of Saafan in Haraz, Yemen.

The officials said Al-Harazi is a key Yemeni suspect in the attack and played a major part in preparing it. He was also described as the operations leader of the attack, who provided the money for the bombing and is a possible link to other militants outside the country involved in the attack.

Yemeni security authorities said Al-Harazi has many aliases and different identification cards, including one in the name of Abdul al-Nassir. Officials have launched a nationwide and international manhunt for him. Investigators in Yemen have assigned undercover agents to the case, and are questioning people they believe could have information as to his whereabouts.

“Once we find him,” an official told CNN, “we will know whether bin Laden or another group was behind the attack.”

U.S. investigators have suspected the suicide bomber attack on the U.S. warship may have been orchestrated by Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization headed by bin Laden which is dedicated to driving Americans and other westerners out of the Gulf region.

Al-Harazi has many aliases and different identification cards, including one in the name of Abdul al-Nassir, Yemeni security authorities said. They have launched an international manhunt, assigned undercover agents to the case and are questioning people they believe could have information as to his whereabouts.

Al-Harazi is one of three suspects that are still on the run. The other two were believed to be in Saudi Arabia last week.

U.S. pleased with progress

Six other suspects, whose cases are now in the hands of prosecutors, are expected to go on trial in January. Of those six, four are believed to be civil servants who helped provide the other suspects with false identification papers.

Senior Yemeni officials have told CNN that the three other suspects who are not in Yemen, including Al-Harazi, could be tried in absentia if sufficient evidence is found against them by the time the trial begins.

Sources told CNN that two key suspects in custody in Yemen are Gamal Al Badawi and Faad Al Quosos. U.S. officials have so far been unable to question them or to witness their interrogations.

The U.S. State Department expressed full support Thursday for Yemen’s intention to bring charges against a number of suspects in the attack on the USS Cole two months ago.

“We are very pleased with the progress that we’ve had,” spokesman Philip Reeker said. “We are working together with the Yemenis on all aspects of the case, and we think it is proceeding very well.”

Reeker said it was premature to talk about the possibility of the suspects being extradited to the United States because the investigation was still going on.

Cole to arrive Wednesday

The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, announced that its crippled warship is to arrive next Wednesday at Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The Cole was transported aboard the heavy-lift ship Blue Marlin from waters off Yemen on a lengthy journey around the Cape of Good Hope.

The Cole will undergo repairs that the Navy estimates will cost $240 million and take a year to complete.

 

CNN Producer Rym Brahimi, CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
CNN_com – US – U_S_ finds link between bin Laden and Cole bombing – December 7, 2000.htm

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