The mastermind behind the deadly suicide bombing of the USS Cole has been identified as Abdul Rahman al-Saafani, a Yemeni who fled abroad under an assumed name, a police source was quoted as telling AFP Thursday.
"The mastermind of the attack is in fact Abdul Rahman Hussein Mohammad al-Saafani, carrier of passport number 414187," the source told AFP.
"Saafani left Yemen a month before the attack after having supervised all phases" up until then, said the source close to the investigation into the October 12 blast that left 17 US sailors dead and 38 others injured.
Yemeni authorities had earlier announced they were searching for a Yemeni named Mohammad Omar al-Harazi, from Saf'an, 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Sanaa, as the kingpin of the group behind the attack on the US naval destroyer in Aden, according to the agency.
"Yemeni investigators have cleared up most details of the attack, which was prepared three years in advance," the source said, adding that "one of the two men who carried out the attack, Hassan Said Qwadh al-Khamiri, had a false identity card since 1997."
The second attacker has still not been identified, according to the police source, who said the investigation was "in its final phase".
But a trial originally set for the end of January has been delayed indefinitely, as Yemeni investigators traveled to the United States and Germany as part of broadening inquiries into the blast of the multi-billion-dollar warship, added the agency.
Interior Minister Hussein Arab said on January 4 that 16 suspects had been rounded up.
Police have since arrested a Yemeni deemed a prime suspect, who implicated alleged Saudi dissident leader Osama bin Laden in the Cole bombing.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post newspaper quoted US officials as saying Wednesday that a suspect who was arrested shortly after the bombing of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998 told the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) about a "plot to attack a US warship in Yemen."
The officials confirmed an ABC News report that the suspect, Mohamed Rashed Daoud Owhali, allegedly told the FBI about a plan for a rocket attack on a US warship in Yemen, said the Post.
The FBI sent a message on August 26 1998, to the Pentagon warning of a plot to attack a Navy ship in Yemen, and the visit of one US warship to Yemen was canceled, the ABC report said, quoted by the Post.
Two years later, the USS Cole was crippled by a suspected suicide attack on October 12 in the Yemeni port of Aden.
US officials said the information allegedly from Owhali, a supporter of bin Laden, was vague and nonspecific, according to the paper.
The FBI declined to comment, and a Pentagon spokesman said he did not have the details about the report.
Owhali, meanwhile, is to go on trial in New York for the embassy bombings.
"The information did go out to various military channels," a US official told the paper on condition of anonymity.
"The information was not that detailed or specific," he added.
The report specifically said it would not be a suicide attack, an intelligence officer told the Post.
"The information was from a source of undetermined reliability and was uncorroborated, and that such an attack would take a couple of months to arrange," he said.
ABC said the FBI had also sent the report to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but a CIA spokesman said there was no record that the agency had received the report at that time.
Bin Laden allegedly masterminded the twin embassy blasts in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people, including 12 Americans, and injured thousands -- Albawaba.com
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