One of men involved in Cole attack identified

The Washington Post

ADEN, Yemen — The two men who steered a small boat laden with plastic explosives into the USS Cole on Oct. 12 have been identified as veterans of the U.S.-backed guerrilla war to drive Soviet forces from Afghanistan, according to Prime Minister Abdel-Karim Ali Iryani.

One of the two who carried out the attack, which killed 17 U.S. sailors as the Cole refueled in the port, has been identified as a Yemeni born in the eastern province of Hadramaut, Iryani said. He declined to provide further details. But in an interview Wednesday in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, he revealed that authorities have solid leads on the identity of the second bomber, who is also believed to be a native of Yemen.

Iryani said the identity of the first bomber was established by false identification discovered in one of the rented houses around Aden from which the plotters prepared the attack. The name on the ID forms, which included a boating license, was false, but the photo was genuine. And as investigators worked the document trail, which included phone records from the safe houses, the photo was recognized, he said.

The prime minister said he could not elaborate, but noted that Yemeni investigators, who still have dozens of people in custody for questioning, have learned a great deal from relatives of the identified bomber, who lived in the Aden area, as well as from a person "who I think was involved," Iryani said.

"The picture inside the country should be very clear very soon. The question is outside. Who was involved outside the country?"

The description of the bombers as Arab veterans of the 1980s Afghan conflict came as no surprise to investigators. Since the beginning, they have focused on Muslim extremists angered by the U.S. military presence in the Arabian Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials have said the attack on the Cole bears the earmarks of followers of Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire and Afghanistan veteran whom U.S. officials say ordered the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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