When the USS Cole was attacked in 2000, 17 American servicemen were killed. That’s not something US prosecutors soon forget. Now, almost two decades later, US Central Command has announced that one of the masterminds of the attack, a man they’ve been hunting since the attack, is believed to have been killed in an air strike.
“US forces conducted a precision strike Jan. 1st in the Marib (governorate), Yemen, targeting Jamal al-Badawi, a legacy Al-Qaeda operative in Yemen involved in the USS Cole bombing,” Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, said.
“US forces are still assessing the results of the strike following a deliberate process to confirm his death.”
Al-Badawi didn’t carry out the attack on the Cole, but he planned it. The guided-missile destroyer was docked in Aden, Yemen, to refuel on October 12, 2000. A rubber dingy packed with explosives pulled alongside the hull and exploded.
Two of the terrorists on the boat were killed. 17 sailors on the Cole were killed.
Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.
Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the others believed to be responsible for the attack, is being held in Guantanamo Bay.
Al-Badawi was more elusive. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2003 “and charged with 50 counts of various terrorism offenses, including murder of US nationals and murder of US military personnel,” DM notes.
“Apart from his alleged role in the USS Cole attack, in which he was said to have supplied boats and explosives, he is also charged with attempting with co-conspirators to attack a US Navy vessel in January 2000.”
Despite the best efforts of the FBI and a $5 million reward for his capture, he remained out of reach for US prosecutors. He was captured by Yemeni officials in 2003, but quickly escaped prison. He was recaptured in 2004, but escaped two years later.
Details on the airstrike are scant at this point. Early reports suggest it was a missile strike on a single vehicle, and that al-Badawi was the alone in the car that he was driving.
Now comes the difficult task of positive identification.