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Archive for Sunday, October 22, 2000

USS Cole probe widens

October 22, 2000

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— The U.S. envoy to Yemen said Saturday that the hunt for the people responsible for the suicide bombing of the guided missile destroyer USS Cole was expanding but was far from reeling in any suspects in the Oct. 12 blast that killed 17 sailors and wounded 39.

"I will tell you that we are a long way from any conclusions. We are a long way from any preliminary conclusions," said Ambassador Barbara Bodine. "There are a lot of rumors going around, but ... we know neither who, how, to a certain extent where and certainly not why."

Reporters were taken by Yemeni authorities Saturday to the small one-story house where police seized bomb-making equipment last week. The house near the port was nearly surrounded by a low wall. In the yard was a concrete tank of the kind used to test boat motors.

A bearded man standing nearby said the two men who had been living in the house, neither of whom had returned since Oct. 12, had Saudi accents. Neighbors have said that the men liked to play soccer with the kids in the area and that they had a boat they were working on inside the walled courtyard.

The two have also been described as non-Yemenis who spoke like gulf Arabs and were about 28 years old.

The Cole was refueling in the Port of Aden when a small boat drove up to it and exploded. The blast ripped a 40-by-40 foot hole in the side of the warship, which remains listing in the harbor and is expected to be hauled away by the end of the month.

Yemeni law enforcement and FBI officials earlier had examined the house where the bomb-making equipment was found. The men who rented it also reportedly rented another house not far away where neighbors said they heard banging and welding.

Investigators say the bomb that sank the Cole was an estimated 600-pound, high-grade explosive device carefully packed to cause maximum damage to the ship's half-inch-thick armor-plated hull.

A prime suspect is Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi militant born in Yemen to a Yemeni father. His family has business links inside Yemen, and he has been indicted in the United States in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Bin Laden has openly criticized the Yemeni government for allowing U.S. Navy ships to refuel in Aden.

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