As Investigations in the USS Cole Continue Too much missing information [Archives:2001/05/Reportage]

January 29 2001

Yemen Times Staff,
The USS Cole bombing along with the explosion incidents that rocked Aden City have caused a lot of concern among the public in that this may signal the start of a battle between certain radical Islamist groups and the security forces. Public interpretation of these actions are identical in that they are aimed at pressuring the government to release the USS Cole suspects, and create chaos and confusion among the security forces and local and international investigation units. This widely accepted interpretation comes at a time when security forces are exerting even more pressure on Islamic movements and intensifying arrest campaigns all over the country. The bombings that were carried out on the eve of the New Year resulted in the quick and unprecedented decision of arresting all who were thought to belong to the Jihad Islamic movement, even if they were not involved in any way with the bombings. Tens of individuals were arrested as part of the arrest campaign that are still continuing today.
This comes at a time when police forces and local investigative bureaus are on their highest alert, and security is being tightened around Political Security Office (PSO) locations, in which the accused in the USS Cole incident are being interrogated. During last week, a number of high-ranking security officials were dismissed. Among these officials were 4 prominent officials, including the head of the Buraiqa Police Department, the official responsible for ensuring security in the Buraiqa area, which is where the USS Cole incident took place. Three heads of investigative units in Aden were also dismissed, as well as the Courts’ Security Manager.
This comes as a threatening message to the radical Islamists who carried out the different bombings in Aden. This also is seen to be an indication that the government will have no mercy in punishing the ones behind the USS Cole incident, surely with capital punishment.
A number of US security officials joined local investigative bureaus in their inspections of the areas where the latest explosion incidents took place.
All of these actions precede the court hearings to be launched in Aden soon. The date of the hearings is yet to be announced, and according to government officials, it will most probably be announced only hours before the actual court hearings start. Only the highest authority in the country i.e., the President of the Republic can decide the date of the court hearings.
According to official sources in Aden, the files of the suspects (from 6 to 8 men) are 80% ready for processing. The General Attorney, whose chairman and deputy participated in the different interrogation procedures with the suspects, have a clear background about all the suspects. They even have received the files of the suspects before reinvestigation, which was demanded by the USA according to the agreement signed between the two countries.
The most important questions that are to be asked regarding this issue are,
“Were the US investigators satisfied with the interrogation and investigation procedures carried out so far? Did they get all the information they required to come to a certain conclusion?” If the answer to these question is “YES”, then the court hearings are not expected to take long, as all the remaining steps will be of a judicial nature and will be carried out by the Yemeni judge.
However, the reward announced in many newspapers, including Yemen Times, which offers up to $5 million in return for any key information regarding the ones behind the incident, is in itself an obvious indication that the suspects are not necessarily the actual culprits. Hence, it may be too premature to assume that the hearings will end quickly with a final and decisive sentence.
A family member of one of the suspects stated on condition of anonymity that he was not allowed to visit the suspect, who was arrested on the 6th of October. He also mentioned that he was arrested for no reason after going to the police station of his own will, and was since then considered among the main suspects.
Until this very moment, there seems to be no extra security measures taken at the court in which the hearings will take place. However, a Yemeni official stated that the court hearings will be held at the Aden Appeal Court building, which is a white building surrounded by the sea from one side, and by the mountain that surrounds Crater from the other three sides, making it an easy target for terrorist acts. For this reason, several Yemeni security officials expressed their concern about the location of the two-storey building, which was originally built during British colonial rule prior to 1967, and demanded holding the court hearings in another location. However, according to officials in Aden, until this very moment, the decision to hold the hearings in another location has not been made.
Observers say that despite the claim of the concerned security officials, the location will be safe if appropriate security measures are taken, as planned, to protect the building from any potential threat from all four sides, and hence the court hearings could be held with confidence.