Correction to This Article
ยท A May 4 Page One article on the bombing of the USS Cole misspelled the name of John P. Clodfelter Jr., the father of a sailor killed in the attack.
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Probe of USS Cole Bombing Unravels

"From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me," he said, according to a transcript. "I just said those things to make the people happy."

Another al-Qaeda leader, Tawfiq bin Attash, who also played an organizing role in the Sept. 11 hijackings, was arrested in Karachi, Pakistan, in May 2003 and confessed last year to overseeing the Cole plot. In a separate appearance before a Guantanamo tribunal, he said he had helped buy the explosives and the motorboat. He also said he had recruited operatives for the plot but was in Afghanistan at the time of the attack.

Bin Attash and Nashiri were both named unindicted co-conspirators in the Justice Department's investigation into the Cole attack. A decision was made not to indict them because pending criminal charges could have forced the CIA or the Pentagon to give up custody of the men, U.S. officials said in interviews.

A Special Deal

After a long trial, a Yemeni court condemned Badawi, the organizer, to death in 2004, although his sentence was reduced on appeal to 15 years in prison. Four other conspirators were given prison sentences ranging from five to 10 years.

The convicts were sent to a maximum security prison in Sanaa, the capital. They didn't stay there long.

On Feb. 3, 2006, prison officials announced that 23 al-Qaeda members, including most of the Cole defendants, had vanished. They escaped by digging a tunnel that snaked 300 feet to a nearby mosque.

It was Badawi's second successful jailbreak. Three years earlier, he had wormed out of another maximum security prison in Aden; Yemeni officials said he had picked a hole through the bathroom wall.

Badawi surrendered about 20 months after his second escape. But Yemeni authorities cut him a deal. They said they would let him remain free if he would help them search for the other al-Qaeda fugitives.

The arrangement was kept secret until Yemeni newspapers reported shortly afterward that Badawi had been spotted at his home in Aden.

U.S. officials said they were stunned. After his first escape, Badawi had been indicted in U.S. District Court in New York for the Cole killings, and the United States had posted a $5 million bounty for his capture. But U.S. officials couldn't get their hands on him. "This was someone who was implicated in the Cole bombing," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at the time. "He needs to be in jail."

U.S. officials withheld $20 million in aid to Yemen and canceled a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Yemeni officials said they quickly put Badawi back behind bars. But reports persist that his incarceration remains a day-to-day affair.

In December, a Yemeni newspaper reported that Badawi had again been seen roaming free in public. One source close to the Cole investigation said there is evidence that Badawi is allowed to come and go, despite the periodic requests by U.S. officials to inspect his prison cell.


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