More and More Fingers Pointing at Bin Laden in USS Cole Bombing
Ten days after an explosion crippled a US warship in Yemeni waters, the United States is keeping a tight lid on its FBI-led investigations but the name of wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden is increasingly cited.
The caution of the US probe officials has contrasted with Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has spoken openly, detailing how two men, one bearded -- the distinctive trait of Islamist -- died in the suicide attack.
In two televised interviews, he has given details of what happened, revealed that the finger of suspicion is pointed at Islamist and that two men have been arrested.
The suspects were "jihad (holy war) elements (who) came from Afghanistan", he said in an interview with CNN.
Bin Laden, wanted in the United States for allegedly masterminding the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa which killed more than 220 people, is living in Afghanistan as a guest of the ruling Taliban militia.
The Taliban have ruled out the involvement of the millionaire Saudi dissident, Washington's most-wanted terrorist in the October 12 attack. But Saleh has not.
"It's possible, it's possible," he repeated.
With his family roots in Yemen and links with veteran mujahadeen fighters who have returned to the country, bin Laden has been a prime suspect in the American press.
According to the New York Times, Washington received two warnings about possible terrorist attacks against US targets in late May and mid-September.
US officials told the daily the first warning said the military Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which is closely associated with Saudi-born Bin Laden, was in the final stages of preparing an attack.
The second warning told of a possible attack against a US warship, without specifying when or where.
The Times said US investigators were also looking into a videotape broadcast on September 21 by Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite television.
In the videotape, a US official said, bin Laden and his top deputy for military operations Ayman al-Zawahari, former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, condemn the US presence in the Middle East and threaten a "holy war."
The United States has disclosed virtually no detail about the investigations to which it has assigned hundreds of agents in Yemen.
But the FBI's New York office, which has headed past inquiries into Bin Laden, is supervising the probe and has dispatched one its most experienced counter terrorism agents.
FBI Director Louis Freeh visited Aden on Thursday and voiced his pleasure at progress, but refused to detail it.
Freeh would not be drawn on which, if any, terrorist groups were responsible for the bombing. He denied that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was in consultation with Saudi authorities.
State Department officials have been slightly more forthcoming and admitted an interest in Laden fits.
"Given his methods of operation, the fact that he has targeted US facilities in the past, and has threatened to do so again, we can't rule him out," said Greg Sullivan, deputy media director at the State Department.
The blast on the billion-dollar missile-guided destroyer also tore a gaping 12 by 12 meter (40 by 40 foot) hole in the port side of the Cole, which was taking on fuel from the other side of the ship, as well as causing major internal damage.
The Taliban dismissed the Al-Jazeera broadcast as a "fabrication and a fake," saying bin Laden was living in Afghanistan without any communications equipment and was not allowed to engage in any activity against any other country from the Afghan soil -- ADEN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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