Yemeni Authorities Free Accused Mastermind of USS Cole Attack

The Associated Press
Published: October 25, 2007

... [A] security official in the port city of Aden said Yemen has set free the al-Qaida mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.

Jamal al-Badawi, who is wanted by the FBI, was convicted of the attack in 2004 and received a death sentence that was commuted to 15 years in prison.

He and 22 others, mostly al-Qaida fighters, escaped from prison in 2004, but al-Badawi was granted his freedom 15 days ago after turning himself in and pledging loyalty to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Al-Badawi had escaped prison once before with nine other suspects in the Cole attack in April 2003, but was rearrested and transferred to a prison in San'a.

The Interior Ministry said earlier that al-Badawi voluntarily gave himself up to police, but media reports said tribal chiefs mediated his surrender after he renounced terrorism and pledged allegiance to the Yemeni leader.

The security official said police in Aden were told by the government in the capital, San'a, to "stop all previous orders concerning measures adopted against al-Badawi."

Witnesses in Aden told The Associated Press that al-Badawi was receiving well-wishers at his home in the al-Buraika district Aden, who congratulating him for his freedom.

Yemen does not have a law that criminalizes Jihad, or holy war. Detainees remain in prison until they either renounce their commitment to Jihad or are released under pressure from family and human rights groups.

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