Cole Bombers Used C-4
- Use Of Plastic Explosive Indicates Attackers Had Resources
- U.S. Troops On High Alert; Navy Won't Say How Cole Will Travel Home
- Yemen And FBI Close On Deal To Allow Greater American Participation
Yemen, Nov. 1, 2000
Navy won't say whether the USS Cole will head home via the Suez, or
(CBS) FBI laboratory tests have concluded that C-4, a military-style
plastic explosive, was used in the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, a federal
law enforcement official said Wednesday.
Close to 10,000 American troops in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, meanwhile,
remained at condition Delta — the highest level of alert — because of a
credible terrorist threat, joining troops in Bahrain and Qatar put on
condition Delta last week.
Two former counterterrorism officials said the use of C-4 in the attack that
killed 17 U.S. sailors suggested at least that an organized group was behind
the attack. One of them said it raised the possibility of state support but
fell short of conclusively indicating some government sponsored the attack.
C-4 is a plastic explosive developed for the U.S. military in the Vietnam era.
It is made for military use in the United States and in at least several NATO
nations. It is not available on the open market.
Although the C-4 formula is not a secret, one former U.S. military
counterterrorism expert said, "C-4 is not used in industrial blasting.
It usually comes from a military source."
Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism expert, said C-4 has been
included in U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and even to Iran while
the shah was still in power. The U.S. military used it during the Persian Gulf
Chemical residues left by the blast could help investigators trace the C-4's
manufacture to one particular country.
Cannistraro said he had been told that between 400 and 700 pounds of the C-4
was used to blast a 40-by-40-foot hole in the Cole's armored hull.
"That possibly points in the direction of some state support, because
that's a lot to steal," Cannistraro said, but added the use of C-4
did not point to any particular terrorist group.
Osama bin Laden, the millionaire Saudi exile who has been charged by U.S.
prosecutors with masterminding the bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and
Kenya, did not use C-4 there, Cannistraro said.
Nevertheless, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said Monday, "We are
looking very closely at Osama bin Laden to see whether or not he in fact, or
organizations he supports, are in some way connected" to the Cole
In another development in the investigation, U.S. and Yemeni negotiators were
near an agreement that would let FBI agents in Yemen observe interviews with
suspects and witnesses and submit questions, but they could not participate
directly in questioning, said the official, who requested anonymity.
Currently, transcripts of the interrogations are sent to U.S. investigators
who pose follow-up questions the Yemenis then ask.
President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and FBI Director
Louis Freeh had appealed to Yemen's leaders to allow joint questioning.
Broadcast sources reported Tuesday night that U.S. officials suspect Yemeni
authorities erased critical parts of a videotape taken by a harbor
surveillance camera the day the Cole was hit. FBI spokeswoman Tracey
Silberling said she did not know about the tape and could not comment on the
Last week CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reported that sources said
U.S. investigators suspected Yemeni authorities of impeding the investigation,
even tampering with evidence, and that Yemen was demanding payment to offset
the cost of closing the port of Aden to protect the crippled Cole.
The Yemeni investigation is focusing on four men believed to be the main
plotters, who carry identification cards for which paperwork has disappeared
from state files. None of the four suspects has been seen since the blast.
At least one of the cards is fake and was used to register at least three
houses and locations the bombers are believed to have used as well as a small
boat used in the attack.
Navy officials, who asked not to be identified, said the Cole was still being
stabilized on the deck of the Norwegian transport ship Blue Marlin not far
from Yemen and had not departed for an Atlantic crossing expected to take
between 25 and 35 days.
The Navy cautiously refused to say whether the Cole would be returned to the
United States for repairs through Egypt's Suez Canal or around the southern
tip of Africa.
Navy ships have stopped using the Suez Canal, the usual route into the Persian
Gulf, since the attack on the Cole.
Repairs on the $1 billion vessel could cost $150 million.
In Norfolk, the U.S. Atlantic Fleet said Wednesday that the remaining 217 crew
members of the Cole would return to Norfolk on Friday.
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Reuters Limited and the Associated Press contributed to this report.