Fri April 11, 2003 10:59 AM ET
ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) – Ten suspects in the suicide bombing of the U.S. warship Cole, blamed on al Qaeda, escaped from a Yemeni jail early Friday, officials said.
Yemeni security forces launched an immediate manhunt and security officials said police distributed photographs of the 10 men across the southern port city of Aden and searched their relatives’ houses.
The 10 had been arrested shortly after the October 2000 suicide bombing of the warship Cole in Aden port that killed 17 sailors.
Authorities declined to give further details of their escape from custody in Aden until the end of an official investigation.
In the attack, two men on a small craft laden with up to 500 pounds of high explosives pulled up to the Cole and rammed into the guided missile destroyer as it was refueling in Aden port.
Washington blamed the attack on Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, which has had many supporters in Yemen, bin Laden’s ancestral home.
Yemen, an impoverished Arab country, had been trying to shed its image in the West as a haven for Islamic militants.
It has cooperated closely with the United States in the war against terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities by arresting scores of suspected al Qaeda sympathizers.