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France Says Tanker Explosion Likely a Terrorist Attack - 2002-10-10

The French government says the explosion on an oil tanker off the coast of Yemen last Sunday was likely caused by a terrorist attack. The announcement came after French, American and Yemeni investigators began looking into the blast.

In a statement late Thursday, France's Ministry of Foreign Affair said initial results of an inquiry into Sunday's explosion on the Limburg oil tanker suggests the blast was due to a deliberate attack. The ministry said further investigations would be needed to verify the initial findings and to determine the exact cause of the explosion.

Reports have been simmering for days that the explosion on the French ship off the Yemeni coast was deliberate. Twenty-four crew were injured in the blast, and one man drowned after he leapt off the tanker. At least one crew member has told reporters he saw a small, high-speed boat heading directly for the ship, before the blast occurred. But Yemeni officials initially said the suspect boat was intended to lead the tanker to port.

Paris has now called for new security reinforcements of its overseas embassies and other diplomatic posts, along with strict measures to protect its citizens living overseas. In addition, the Foreign Ministry said, the government will look into ways to reinforce security on board French commercial ships.

If the initial finding proves correct, this would not be the first time French citizens overseas have been targeted in a terrorist attack this year. In May, a suicide attack on a bus in Karachi, Pakistan, killed nearly a dozen French naval workers. Like other countries, France has stepped up security measures domestically, and at its embassies and companies overseas, since the terrorist attacks last year in the United States.