May 04, 2008

All the USS Cole Bombers Free in Yemen, Journalist on Trial for Terrorism

On October 12, 2000, two al-Qaeda suicide bombers on an explosives laden dingy attacked a US destroyer in the Gulf of Aden, killing 17 US service members and injuring 49 others. The perpetrators of this terror plot are all free in Yemen despite being found guilty in court and sentenced to jail.

If Saudi Arabia pardoned 9/11 highjacker Mohammed Atta while imprisoning a completely innocent journalist on terrorism charges, the US would be in an uproar. But that's exactly what is going on in Yemen. The USS Cole bombers are free. My good friend, the journalist al-Khaiwani, is on trial in terrorism court. Sentencing is May 21.

Regular Jawa readers are familiar with the Yemeni regime's habitual accommodation of al-Qaeda terrorists, but this is a great article from the WaPo on the bombers. Besides what I've written, its the first comprehensive treatment of what happened to the bombers after the trial. Much of details we published here at Jawa on the last anniversary, but the WaPo incorporates the recent updates on the release of mastermind Jamal al-Badawi and his sidekick Fahd al-Quso and has some good quotes.

One thing that's new to me is al-Nashiri was in Taiz after the bombing, but the Yemeni government insisted he was out of the country. This type of obstruction is actually quite in character with the regime's approach to the USS Cole investigation and, generally speaking, to the murderers of US soldiers whether on the Cole or in Iraq:

Amid the friction, U.S. and Yemeni investigators soon identified the ringleader of the attack as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national of Yemeni descent who served as al-Qaeda's operations chief in the Arabian Peninsula.

At the time, Yemeni authorities insisted that Nashiri had fled the country before the Cole bombing. But a senior Yemeni official said that was not the case and that Yemeni investigators had located Nashiri in Taizz, a city about 90 miles northwest of Aden, soon after the attack. The official said Nashiri spent several months in Taizz, where he received high-level protection from the government. "We knew where he was, but we could not arrest him," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation.

Nashiri eventually left Yemen to prepare other attacks on U.S. targets in the Persian Gulf, U.S. officials said. He was captured in the United Arab Emirates in November 2002 and handed over to the CIA. He was detained in the CIA's secret network of overseas prisons until he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September 2006.

Sooner or later the story will eventually turn to the fact that regime affiliated persons are using tools of the state in a variety of ways to produce and facilitate suicide bombers of all nationalities that kill our troops in Iraq. In 2005-2006, over Yemeni 1800 jihaddists went to Iraq with the assistance of Yemeni military commanders and others within the Yemeni administration. That's another part of the paradigm that needs more attention.

It's nice to see some US governmental outrage about the release of the USS Cole bombers. The families need to know that, so do our soldiers and the rest of the country.

Q: "After we worked day and night to bring justice to the victims and prove that these Qaeda operatives were responsible, we're back to square one," said Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and a lead investigator into the bombing. "Do they have laws over there or not? It's really frustrating what's happening."

A: Yes, Yemen does have laws and they are quite consistently applied. This is no anomaly. One way to discern what the laws actually are is is to compare the lenient treatment of al-Qaeda with harsh treatment of a) criminals and tribal kidnappers, b) the Houthis and the 700,000 people in Sa'ada or c) the southerners and their leaders. It is often said that Saleh is bending to public pressure on the al-Qaeda issue; however he refuses to bend to public pressure on any other issue, be it the south, Sa'ada, reform or even the fuel riots. It is an alliance, whether financially or ideologically driven. To stipulate that Saleh is unable to move against al-Qaeda in any way presupposes that the movement was always or has become as powerful as the military and tribal legs of the regime. The alternate view is that Saleh chooses not to antagonize al-Qaeda because it benefits him in some way or another. The current rash of missing mortars and nightime bombings of government buildings is a result of Saleh's policy of appeasement, one way or another.

WaPo: Yemen's interior minister, Rashad al-Alimi, said the deal-cutting was necessary because al-Qaeda has rebuilt its networks in Yemen and is targeting the government.

"Our battle with al-Qaeda is a long one," he said. "It isn't our battle only. Our tragedy -- and what makes things worse -- is that al-Qaeda is united. And our coalition is divided, even though we have a common enemy."

Some Yemenis have questioned whether their government has other motives. One senior Yemeni official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Badawi and other al-Qaeda members have a long relationship with Yemen's intelligence agencies and were recruited in the past to target political opponents

Al-Qaeda functioning as a paramilitary of the Yemeni regime raises the question of the terms of the quid pro quo.

PS: I have a plan for al-Khaiwani and I will need help. Will advise within 48 hours

By Jane at 10:31 AM | Comments |