U.S. law enforcement officials have announced the indictment of two men from Yemen in connection with the al-Qaida terrorist attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in 2000.
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced at a Washington news conference that Yemeni nationals Jamal Ahmed Mohammad Ali al-Badawi and Fahd al-Quso have been indicted on 50 criminal charges including murder and various terrorism offenses for their alleged role in the Cole bombing.
"Both Bedawi and Quso are alleged to be longtime al-Qaida terrorist associates who were trained in the al-Qaida terrorist camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s," he said. "As the indictment alleges, they were schooled in Osama bin Laden's hate and vowed to attack and kill Americans wherever and whenever they could, especially American nationals on the Arabian peninsula."
Both men escaped from a jail in Yemen last month and remain at large. The FBI says they should be considered armed and dangerous.
Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed and more than 40 injured when a small boat packed with explosives rammed the Cole in Aden harbor.
Mr. Ashcroft alleges that al-Badawi helped to find safe houses for the terrorists in Aden while al-Quso planned to videotape the attack from a high point overlooking the harbor.
"The United States alleges in its indictment that, from a vantage point above the harbor, Quso hoped to videotape the attack to encourage other would-be terrorists to engage in similar attacks," he said.
The indictments were unsealed in a federal court in New York and also allege that the two men plotted to bomb another U.S. Navy ship, the USS The Sullivans, 10 months before the Cole bombing.
Attorney General Ashcroft says that plot failed when the terrorists overloaded a small boat with explosives and it sank. But the terrorists were able to recover the explosives and use them against the Cole 10 months later.
If the men are arrested and convicted, they could face the death penalty.