Islamic extremists were behind the suicide bombing of a US destroyer which killed 17 sailors and a grenade attack at the British embassy, Yemen has admitted.
With the United States not ruling wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh disclosed overnight that one of two of the suicide bombers was "bearded," the distinctive characteristic of Islamist in the region.
And he said a Yemeni member of the hardline Islamic Jihad threw a grenade at the British mission in the capital Sanaa on Friday, a day after a huge explosion crippled the USS Cole in Aden bay, and had been arrested.
The revelations came after Washington and London both insisted the attacks were terrorist in origin at a time of high tension in the Middle East when Israeli-Palestinian clashes were threatening to descend into all-out war.
"The two people responsible for the attack were killed in the explosion, and one of them had a beard and wore glasses," the president said in a interview. "He wore a beard" and came from Hadramout, a central Yemen hotbed of Islamic radicals, Saleh said.
"The powder used in the attack can only be found in the United States, in Israel and in two Arab countries, but I would rather not name them," he added. A fibre glass boat had been used for the attack.
FBI Director Louis Freeh told reporters in Aden on Thursday: "We're very pleased at the progress of the investigation ... particularly (with the Yemeni authorities) in finding several locations which we feel might be relevant to the investigation."
But he refused to be drawn on which, if any, terrorist groups were responsible for the October 12 bombing, and denied that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was in consultation with Saudi authorities.
The Saudi ambassador and a Saudi deputy foreign minister have both visited Aden this week.
"We have some theories, but we don't want to be speculating," Freeh said after meeting Saleh and visiting the destroyer.
"The attack was against the very good relationship between the United States and Yemen," he said.
Freeh described the on-board damage as "catastrophic": "The force of the shockwave ripped a huge hole and moved decks, literally around ... it was a tangled mess of metal and wire."
"The process (of the investigation) on the ship is ongoing. It is a very difficult environment. Our priority now is the identification of human remains," he said.
US Navy divers were still trying to retrieve the remains of the last four sailors killed in the blast.
The explosion killed 17 and wounded 38. The bodies of eight sailors were flown home overnight.
The involvement of Bin Laden is one of the possibilities the United States has under consideration, according to Greg Sullivan, deputy media director at the State Department.
"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," Sullivan said.
The authorities in Afghanistan, where Bin Laden has found shelter, have ruled out any role by the Saudi dissident in the attacks in Yemen, from where his family originates.
The FBI's New York office, which headed inquiries into Bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the bombings of two US embassies in East Africa that killed more than 200 people, is supervising the investigation and has dispatched one its most experienced counter terrorism agents.
Yemen's 26 November newspaper called Thursday for "joint international efforts to combat terrorism ... and to confront terrorists to bring them to justice."
The Arabian Peninsula country has been rocked periodically by Islamist violence, including the kidnapping of foreigners.
Several hundred extremists are believed to be active in isolated, mountainous areas of Yemen, many of them veterans of the Afghan war, among whom Bin Laden has a strong influence -- ADEN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )