CNN : Justice Department 'dismayed' over release of USS Cole bombing leader

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Justice Department 'dismayed' over release of USS Cole bombing leader

* Jamal al-Badawi, a leader in the USS Cole bombing, has been released
* Al-Badawi is one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists
* Rudy Giuliani calls on U.S. government to cancel $20 million in aid to Yemen
* U.S. officials close to the case express outrage over the release

From Terry Frieden and Kelli Arena | CNN | October 26, 2007

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. law enforcement officials Friday blasted Yemen's release of one of the leaders of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. soldiers.

The release of Jamal al-Badawi, a mastermind in the 2000 USS Cole bombing, has outraged U.S. officials.

"We are dismayed and deeply disappointed in the government of Yemen's decision not to imprison [Jamal al-Badawi]," said a Justice Department statement issued by the Department's National Security Division.

"We have communicated our displeasure to Yemeni officials," the statement said.

The statement pointedly referred to al-Badawi as one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists and noted prosecutors in New York City want to get their hands on him.

"He was convicted in Yemeni courts and has been indicted in the Southern District of New York," the Justice Department said. Officials said the decision is not consistent with cooperation between counterterrorism officials of the United States and Yemen.

Al-Badawi -- who had escaped prison last year -- was freed after turning himself in two weeks ago, renouncing terrorism and pledging allegiance to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to news reports.

Witnesses said al-Badawi was "receiving well-wishers at his home" in Aden, Yemen, according to The Associated Press in Sana, Yemen.

Former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani promptly called for the U.S. government to cancel $20 million in aid to Yemen for releasing al-Badawi.

The retired former commander of the Cole called the release "disappointing."

"In the war on terrorism, actions speak stronger than words, and this act by the Yemeni government is a clear demonstration that they are neither a reliable nor trustworthy partner in the war on terrorism," said Cmdr. Kirk Lippold.

U.S. law enforcement officials close to the case privately expressed outrage over the release of al-Badawi.

"He's got American blood on his hands. He confessed to what he did ... and they let him go," said one official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

"This will not be the last we hear of him," another federal official under the same restriction told CNN's Kelli Arena.

The Justice Department said U.S. officials will try to work with the Yemeni government "to ensure al-Badawi is held accountable for his past actions."

Suicide bombers on a boat attacked the guided missile destroyer USS Cole on October 12, 2000, in the harbor at Aden. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed and 39 injured.

Al-Badawi, convicted in 2004 and sentenced to death, previously escaped from prison in 2003, before his trial, and was recaptured in 2004. In 2006, he escaped again with 22 others, and had been at large since then.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.