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Plotter of USS Cole attack escapes
The Associated Press
SAN'A, Yemen — An al-Qaida operative sentenced to death for plotting the bombing that killed 17 sailors on the U.S. destroyer Cole in 2000 was among a group of convicts who escaped from a Yemen prison last week, Interpol said Sunday in issuing a global security alert.
Officials set up checkpoints around the capital of San'a, where the prison was located, to try to catch the escapees before they could flee to the protection of mountain tribes, according to a Yemeni official.
Some mountainous tribal areas are essentially outside the control of Yemen's central government, raising fears the fugitives could hide there before escaping the country.
Yemeni officials said Jamal al-Badawi — a man convicted of plotting, preparing and helping carry out the Cole bombing — was among the fugitives, Interpol said. Al-Badawi was among those sentenced to death in September 2004 for plotting the attack, in which two suicide bombers blew up an explosives-laden boat next to the destroyer as it refueled in Aden, Yemen.
A Yemeni security official announced the escape of convicted al-Qaida members Friday but did not provide any details or names.
The convicts escaped via a 140-yard-long tunnel "dug by the prisoners and co-conspirators outside," Interpol said.
The escape came a day before the expected start of a trial of 15 people charged with involvement in terror operations in Yemen, including Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, another suspected plotter of the Cole bombing.
The trial was postponed indefinitely.
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