The United States received two warnings about possible terrorist attacks against US targets in late May and mid-September, well ahead of the October 12 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, The New York Times said Friday.
The first warning said the military Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which is closely associated with Saudi-born extremist Osama bin Laden, was in the final stages of preparing an attack, US officials told the daily.
The second warning told of a possible attack against an American warship, without specifying when or where.
No indications were given on the origin of the warnings, and the daily said US investigators were also looking into videotape broadcast on September 21 by Al Jazeera, an Arabic satellite television network based in Qatar.
In the videotape, US official said, bin Laden and his top deputy for military operations Ayman al-Zawahari, former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, condemn US presence in the Middle East and threaten a "holy war."
While the videotape preceded the USS Cole tragedy by three weks, US officials said it did not prompt either warning.
US officials denied they were not careful about possible attacks on US targets in the Middle East, saying the first warning was widely disseminated to embassies, military command posts and foreign governments throughout the region.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Wednesday that one of the two suicide bombers of the USS Cole was "bearded", the distinctive characteristic of Islamist in the region.
The president also said a member of the hardline Islamic Jihad threw a grenade at the British mission in the capital Sanaa last week, a day after a huge explosion crippled the USS Cole in Aden bay killing 17 and wounding 38 on board.
The involvement of bin Laden in the attack on the USS Cole is one of the possibilities that United States has under consideration, according to Greg Sullivan, deputy media director at the State Department -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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