Several Islamic hardliners were under arrest Thursday in Yemen in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole guided-missile destroyer which, President Ali Abdullah Saleh says, was carried out by an Egyptian.
Police told AFP that three Yemenis and a Somali woman were being held on suspicion of involvement in the explosion, which killed 17 US sailors and wounded 38 on October 12 in Aden harbor.
However Saleh said overnight that those arrested included "top leaders" of the Islamic Jihad from Yemen, Egypt, Algeria and other Arab states.
He did not give a number for those held.
"What we know of the Jihad is that they are people who come back from Afghanistan and who are in numerous Arab countries," he told the MBC Arabic television channel.
"They have stayed in Yemen at one time and the Yemeni government decided to expel them and they indeed left the country, but pockets are still (in Yemen) and they disguise themselves as Yemenis."
But Saleh refused to accuse Osama bin Laden, an alleged terrorist mastermind who is of Yemeni origin and has strong ties to the Afghan veterans.
"We must never accuse anyone, we are waiting for the results of the inquiry which will be published very soon."
"The inquiry is progressing very well and the results are promising."
Saleh identified an Egyptian as one of the suicide bombers.
"The person who perpetrated the operation, who could have been accompanied by another person, is of Egyptian nationality, according to the early results of the enquiry," the Yemeni president said in the interview.
Saleh has previously disclosed that two people carried out the attack which crippled the USS Cole, adding that one had a beard, the distinctive trait of Islamists.
"Three Yemenis suspected of being involved in the attack were arrested by police in Aden's Tawahi district Wednesday," a police official said under condition of anonymity.
"The Somali was arrested Monday in the city of Taez," northwest of Aden, he added.
"Information available to investigators indicates that the Somali sold to one of the perpetrators (of the attack) the car used to haul the boat and explosive charge (used) against the Cole," the source said.
Saleh had said October 18 that the car in question had been bought by one of the perpetrators, who died in the attack, from a Somali national.
Although the United States is keeping a tight lid on its FBI-led investigations the name of Bin Laden has been repeatedly cited.
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, but Saleh has previously said Bin Laden's involvement was "possible".
According to the New York Times, Washington received two warnings about possible attacks on 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 Bin Laden, was in the final stages of preparing an attack.
Dozens of people have been questioned by police in Aden in connection with the bombing, many of them port workers – ADEN (AFP)
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