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Tuesday, October 30, 2007      New: Take a Stand

U.S. angered by release of mastermind behind attack on USS Cole

WASHINGTON The United States is dismayed over what officials said was Yemen's failure to cooperate in the war against Al Qaida.

Fugitive Al Qaida suspect Jamal al-Badawi, seen in 2005. AFP/Khaled Fazaa
The Bush administration expressed disappointment with Yemen's decision to release the man regarded as the mastermind of the Al Qaida attack on the USS Cole in Aden in 2000.

"The United States is dismayed and deeply disappointed in the government of Yemen's decision not to imprison [Al] Badawi," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "This action is inconsistent with a deepening of our bilateral counterterrorism cooperation."

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Officials said Sanaa has largely failed to respond to a significant U.S. investment in Yemen's military and security forces. They pointed to about $100 million in U.S. military and security assistance since 2004, which included the formation of Yemen's coast guard.

"We have communicated our displeasure to Yemeni officials and will work with the Yemeni government to ensure Al Badawi is held accountable for his past terrorist actions," Johndroe said on Oct. 26.

In 2004, Al Badawi was convicted of plotting and conducting the bombing of the USS Cole. A Yemeni court condemned Al Badawi to death, but the sentence was reduced to 15 years in prison.

Still, officials said, Yemen has failed to keep Al Badawi and other Al Qaida operatives behind bars. He escaped prison twice since 2004, allegedly with help of Yemeni jailers. The FBI has offered $5 million for information that would lead to his arrest.

Officials said the release of Jamal Al Badawi violated a pledge to capture and prosecute those behind the suicide attack in which 17 American sailors were killed. In mid-October, Al Badawi surrendered to Yemeni authorities in an arrangement that allowed him to return home to Aden. Al Badawi, officials said, pledged loyalty to the regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

On Sunday, Yemen asserted that Al Badawi was still in detention. But the Yemeni Interior Ministry would not elaborate.

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