Archive for Thursday, October 17, 2002

Yemen says explosives-laden boat used in tanker attack

October 17, 2002

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— An explosives-laden boat rammed a French oil tanker off Yemen, the interior minister said Wednesday the first official Yemeni acknowledgment the ship was the victim of a terror attack reminiscent of the deadly assault on the USS Cole two years ago.

Interior Minister Rashad al-Eleimi said arrests had been made but did not describe the suspects or how many were detained, or what they were accused of.

He said the Oct. 6 bombing of the Limburg and subsequent fire was "a deliberate act of terror carried out by an explosives-laden boat."

Police had found a rented house in which the explosives were prepared, the minister said in a statement carried by the official news agency Saba. The house is in Al Mukalla, the port 345 miles southeast of the Yemeni capital into which the tanker had been pulling at the time of the bombing.

Al-Eleimi said investigators found traces of explosives aboard the tanker but did not say whether suicide bombers were involved. Yemeni investigators had said earlier they were exploring the theory of a remote-controlled blast.

"Security organs ... will continue their investigation to uncover more about this terrorist act, which has damaged the reputation of Yemen and harmed its economic interests and caused an environmental disaster," said the minister, who is in charge of Yemen's police forces.

He said Yemeni, French and U.S. investigators would continue to cooperate.

The scenario al-Eleimi laid out raised the specter of the attack two years ago on the USS Cole, which was rammed with a small, explosives-laden boat as it pulled into a Yemeni harbor. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed in the Cole attack, which was blamed on al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

In the attack on the French tanker, a Bulgarian member of the crew was killed, a gaping hole was torn into the vessel, and some 90,000 barrels of oil was released into waters off Yemen.

An intelligence official in Washington has said U.S. experts believed the attack was the work of unspecified operatives with links to al-Qaida.

A statement this week attributed to bin Laden and another to the network's "political bureau" hailed the explosion but wouldn't confirm al-Qaida's responsibility. Bin Laden has said striking economic targets is part of his strategy.

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