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Homeland Security

Attacks on US Warships in Port of Aden

The Department of Defense announced that the Convening Authority, Office of Military Commissions referred charges to a military commission in the case against Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri, alleged to be the person in charge of the planning and preparation for the attack on USS Cole on 12 October 2000. The charges also alleged that Al Nashiri was responsible for the planning and preparation for the failed attack in January 2000 on the USS The Sullivans and the successful attack in 2002 on the French civilian oil tanker MV Limburg.

The Convening Authority referred the charges to a capital military commission, meaning that, if convicted, Al Nashiri could be sentenced to death. Pursuant to the reforms in the Military Commissions Act of 2009, Al Nashiri was provided with additional counsel, learned in the applicable law relating to capital cases, to assist in his defense. In accordance with Military Commissions rules and procedures, the Chief Trial Judge of the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary was to assign a military judge to the case, and Al Nashiri would be arraigned at Guantanamo within 30 days of service of the referred charges upon him.

In January of 2000, a man known as 'Khallad' had completed his work in helping plan the destruction of a U.S. warship visiting Yemen, the U.S.S. The Sullivans. The attack had just failed -- unnoticed. The boat filled with explosives had sunk. Only the terrorists knew what had gone wrong. Almost everything was salvaged and prepared for another day. Khallad would later be a principal planner in the next try, nine months later.

On October 12, 2000, al-Qaeda operatives in a small boat laden with explosives attacked a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Cole. The blast ripped a hole in the side of the Cole, killing 17 members of the ship's crew and wounding at least 40. The plot was a full-fledged al Qaeda operation, supervised directly by Bin Ladin. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives and equipment. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was the field commander and managed the operation in Yemen. Khallad (real name: Tafiq bin-Atash) helped in Yemen until he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity and freed with Bin Ladin's help, as we also mentioned earlier. Local al-Qaeda coordinators included Jamal al Badawi and Fahd al Quso, who was supposed to film the attack from a nearby apartment. The two suicide operatives chosen were Hassan al Khamri and Ibrahim al Thawar, also known as Nibras. Nibras and Quso delivered money to Khallad in Bangkok during Khallad's January 2000 trip to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

In September 2000, Bin Ladin reportedly told Nashiri that he wanted to replace Khamri and Nibras. Nashiri was angry and disagreed, telling others he would go to Afghanistan and explain to Bin Ladin that the new operatives were already trained and ready to conduct the attack. Prior to departing, Nashiri gave Nibras and Khamri instructions to execute the attack on the next U.S. warship that entered the port of Aden. While Nashiri was in Afghanistan, Nibras and Khamri saw their chance. They piloted the explosives-laden boat alongside the USS Cole, made friendly gestures to crew members, and detonated the bomb. Quso did not arrive at the apartment in time to film the attack.

Back in Afghanistan, Bin Ladin anticipated U.S. military retaliation. He ordered the evacuation of al Qaeda's Kandahar airport compound and fled- first to the desert area near Kabul, then to Khowst and Jalalabad, and eventually back to Kandahar. In Kandahar, he rotated between five to six residences, spending one night at each residence. In addition, he sent his senior advisor, Mohammed Atef, to a different part of Kandahar and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, to Kabul so that all three could not be killed in one attack. There was no American strike. In February 2001, a source reported that an individual whom he identified as the big instructor (probably a reference to Bin Ladin) complained frequently that the United States had not yet attacked. According to the source, Bin Ladin wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger.

The attack on the USS Cole galvanized al Qaeda's recruitment efforts. Following the attack, Bin Ladin instructed the media committee, then headed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to produce a propaganda video that included a reenactment of the attack along with images of the al Qaeda training camps and training methods; it also highlighted Muslim suffering in Palestine, Kashmir, Indonesia, and Chechnya. Al Qaeda's image was very important to Bin Ladin, and the video was widely disseminated. Portions were aired on Al Jazeera, CNN, and other television outlets. It was also disseminated among many young men in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and caused many extremists to travel to Afghanistan for training and jihad.Al Qaeda members considered the video an effective tool in their struggle for preeminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements.

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Page last modified: 28-09-2011 18:54:58 ZULU