U.S. officials visit Cole bomber at prison in Yemen
U.S. Embassy officials in Yemen visited a Yemeni man convicted in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in his prison cell Oct. 29, three days after he was seen greeting relatives in his house.
U.S. and Yemeni officials confirmed the visit but declined to discuss details about its length or substance.
“We were able to physically confirm the presence of Jamal Badawi at a prison in Aden,” a State Department official said.
It was not clear whether it satis- fied U.S. concerns about the status of the man, Jamal Badawi, who escaped from prison along with 22 other convicts last year and turned himself in three weeks ago.
“Jamal Al-Badawi is in our custody and remains detained undergoing further investigations concerning his escape from prison last year,” Yemen’s Interior Ministry said.
“Jamal is fully cooperating, and the Yemeni government is optimistic about receiving crucial information about other al Qaeda operatives in Yemen and abroad.”
Relatives of Badawi’s told reporters in Yemen on Oct. 26 that his 15-year sentence — already reduced from his initial death sentence — had been commuted, and they had visited him in his house in the southern port city of Aden, where the attack on the Navy ship took place seven years ago.
The Interior Ministry did not offer an explanation for the relatives’ account, but sources with knowledge of the situation said he had been allowed to visit his family because of his cooperation with the government’s investigation of al Qaeda.
The sources did not say how long Badawi was out of prison.
Earlier, the State Department said it was getting confusing reports about Badawi’s status. Diplomats did not rule out the possibility that Badawi was put under house arrest two weeks ago, but the Yemeni authorities reversed their decision once they were lambasted by Bush administration officials.
“This was someone who was implicated in the Cole bombing and someone who can’t be running free,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
“Our ambassador is actively working that issue right now,” he said. “I can’t say that we have a firm understanding of exactly what the situation is with respect to this individual. Suffice it to say, in our view, this is somebody that needs to be be- hind bars.”
The Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), a U.S. government entity helping the development of poor countries, said it had decided to award Yemen $20.6 million to “fight corruption and improve performance on MCC’s indicators that measure the rule of law, political rights and fiscal policy.”
“Originally scheduled to be signed Oct. 31, [MCC Chief Executive Officer] John Danilovich has decided to postpone awarding assistance to Yemen and [we] are currently undertaking a review to determine the country’s future status with MCC,” the corporation said.