CNN ABC 'reports' below.
Yemen Seeking 'Clown' Seen on Cole Before Blast
By Susan Sevareid The Associated Press
A D E N, Yemen, Jan. 12 —
Yemen is seeking details from the United States about the USS Cole's voyage before a bomb blast nearly sank the destroyer in Aden — particularly relating to a clownish peddler who was permitted to board the ship at the Suez Canal, a weekly newspaper reported.The unidentified man "behaved like the English comic actor Charlie Chaplin," and was allowed to board the Cole while it was stopped in the canal, according to 26 September, a mouthpiece for the Yemeni Armed Forces that hit newsstands in Aden late Thursday.
The paper said the man was an American citizen, and was selling something, although it was unclear what. It was the first report of an outsider being allowed on the Cole before the explosion, raising further questions about U.S. security procedures.
The Cole, refueling in Aden on the way to the Persian Gulf to support the U.N. embargo against Iraq, was attacked Oct. 12 by a small boat that maneuvered alongside it and detonated a load of explosives. The blast killed the two bombers and 17 U.S. sailors, and injured 39 others. Yemen is preparing to try up to eight suspects in connection with the bombing.
The attack prompted an internal U.S. Navy inquiry that focused on whether any Americans should be held responsible for security lapses. That review has been completed but not made public. A separate inquiry seeking to draw lessons from what happened concluded the U.S. military must take more aggressive precautions against terrorists.
Comes to Bear
The newspaper, which did not identify its sources, said Yemeni authorities want to know details of the peddler's conversations with sailors, what the sailors bought from him and where on the ship he was allowed access.
Yemeni officials did not immediately respond to calls for comment on the report. It was not clear when the Yemeni investigators submitted their request for information; 26 September said the investigators also asked:
— how many people knew about the Cole's route and who told them;
— whether any abnormal telephone calls were received aboard the ship during the Cole's journey from the Suez Canal to Aden's harbor;
— what was found at the Cole blast site after the U.S. destroyer was towed out of Aden's harbor; and
— for written reports from U.S. explosives experts on the bomb materials and quantity as well as results of lab tests on materials and samples that were sent to the United States.
Three More Wanted
Al-Masri also confirmed that five people have been arrested in connection with explosions in Aden on Jan. 1-2. Blasts went off at an Anglican church compound, near the official Yemeni news agency, at a hotel and along two major roads. Only one injury, reportedly minor, resulted from the blasts.
Three of the five suspects have provided detailed confessions of their involvement, al-Masri was quoted as saying.
There has been speculation in Yemen the small bombings were part of an attempt to disrupt preparations for the Cole trial.
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All