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One Year After Terrorist Attack on USS Cole - 2001-08-22


It's been almost a year since a terrorist bomb nearly sank the U.S. destroyer "Cole" while the Navy ship was on a refueling stop in Yemen. Seventeen American sailors were killed. The threat of more terrorism forced the FBI to temporarily pull its agents off a case. And Yemen reportedly has refused to allow the FBI access to key suspects.

In June, the FBI pulled its agents out of Yemen because of what it said were specific and credible threats against them, walking away from an open case and a trail of evidence, along with witnesses whom agents were seeking to interview.

Nearly a year since last October's blast, the United States is now hoping agents can return and resume the search for evidence.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker says "we're still working on logistical and administrative requirements as well as the security requirements that would be necessary to send a full investigative team back to Yemen."

But if FBI agents do return, questions are being raised about whether the joint U.S.-Yemeni investigation will ever result in anyone being brought to justice. The New York Times reports the investigation has virtually ground to a halt because Yemen is refusing to let the FBI question some suspects who could point the finger at Osama Bin Laden, who was indicted for the bombings of two American embassies in Africa three years ago. He has long been considered a suspect in the Cole bombing since U.S. officials believe many of his followers reside in Yemen.

"It is nearly impossible at this point in time to say whether or not anyone involved in the Cole bombing will ever be prosecuted on American soil," says former FBI agent Rick Hahn helped investigate some of the FBI's high profile terrorism cases, including the bombings of Pan Am flight 103 and New York's World Trade Center.

"There's really very few options left for the FBI to pursue the case in Yemen if the Yemenis shut it down," he says. "If they are unwilling to allow us to sit in on their interviews and they're unwilling to pursue it further, we certainly are not in a position to go into their sovereign country and conduct our own investigation."

Both the FBI and the State Department say the investigation into the Cole bombing remains ongoing and deny Yemen has refused cooperation.