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Friday, October 12, 2007

Seven Years Ago Today

Important post from Jane Novak over at the Jawa Report:

On October 12, 2000 two Yemeni suicide bombers rammed an explosives-laden dingy into an American destroyer, the USS Cole. Seventeen US service members were killed and forty-nine injured. The destroyer had been invited by the Yemeni government to refuel in the port of Aden.

In the light of historical perspective, several facts have become clear. Intelligence warnings generated prior to the attack were never forwarded to the commander of the Cole. The investigation afterwards was marred by turf wars within the US government, leaving links between the Cole bombing and the attacks of 9/11 unexplored. The Yemeni government worked diligently to limit the scope of the US investigation. Almost all the Yemenis involved in the Cole bombing are free today. The involvement of some Yemeni officials in the bombing is documented; however, the scope of that involvement is not.

Military commander and presidential half brother, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar recruited fighters for bin Laden in the 1980’s and set up training camps in Yemen. Thousands of Yemenis at all levels were active in the Afghan conflict. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the Yemeni regime welcomed thousands of both Yemeni and non-Yemeni “Afghan Arabs” back to Yemen. Many of these hard core Islamists were militarily deployed in defense of the regime during its civil war in 1994 against Southern Socialists. As a result, many Afghan Arabs and other Islamic militants who fought in 1994 against “apostate” socialists are today ensconced in high level government positions. Others were absorbed into the military and security forces.

Through the 1990’s, both Osama bin Laden and Aiman Zawaheri traveled in and out and around Yemen on many occasions, often meeting religious leaders and prominent persons. Bin Laden delivered sermons in Yemeni mosques and purportedly held a six hour meeting with Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in Sana’a airport in 1996.

Bin Laden made a deal with the Yemeni government in 1999, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. After Al-Qaeda operative Tawfiq (Khallad) bin Attash was arrested in Yemen, Bin Laden contacted a Yemeni official and bargained for Attash’s release. The Yemeni regime released Attash and promised not to confront al-Qaeda. In exchange, Bin Laden pledged not to attack Yemen. This pattern of negotiation continues today.