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Cole Suspect Sketches Created

October 28, 2000

ADEN, Yemen (AP) _ Using descriptions from fishermen and other witnesses, Yemeni investigators have created composite sketches of two suspects in the USS Cole bombing, sources close to the investigation said Saturday.

The sketches will be sent to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they will be checked against photographs of Arab veterans of the anti-Soviet rebellion in Afghanistan, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

The Oct. 12 attack on the Cole killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded 39 others in the port of Aden. Officials believe two suicide bombers maneuvered a small boat next to the destroyer and detonated explosives.

Yemen’s president has said one of the two suspects was identified by witnesses as an Egyptian and that a number of Arab fighters from the Afghanistan war have been detained in connection with the blast.

The sources said artists from the Yemeni capital, San`a, drew the sketches based on conversations with fishermen whom the two suspects had quizzed about comings and goings of ships in the harbor. The artists also spoke to landlords of at least three properties where the men prepared for the bombing, and to a 12-year-old boy that one suspect paid to watch his car before the blast.

Witnesses have described the two suspects as well-built and said one had a beard and wore glasses.

Also Saturday, retired U.S. Army Gen. William W. Crouch and retired Navy Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr. arrived in Aden to review military procedures, protection and intelligence gathering in Yemen, the U.S. Defense Department said in a statement.

The review will be conducted separately, but in coordination with, an FBI-led investigation. Crouch and Gehman toured the Cole, but refused to talk to reporters about their mission.

The damaged Cole is still docked in Aden. It is to be carried back to the United States on a special ``heavy-lift″ ship that is expected to reach the port by Sunday.

If terrorism is proved, the bombing would be the deadliest attack on the U.S. military since 19 Air Force personnel died in a 1996 truck bomb explosion in Saudi Arabia.

Also Saturday, Yemeni Interior Minister Hussein Mohammed Arab said it has not been established whether the Egyptian suspect belongs to Al Qaeda. That group is led by Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire singled out by the United States as a terrorist leader.

Speaking in Saudi Arabia, Arab said the investigations have ``achieved great positive results.″ He also said no Saudi nationals took part in the bombing.

Yemeni security are handling the investigation, Arab said, and ``the Americans have no interference″ in the probe, ``except for some questions that they could pose to Yemeni investigators who in turn perform the investigations,″ he said.

Arab’s remarks were the most detailed the Yemenis have offered on the U.S role in the probe. His comments came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and FBI Director Louis Freeh appealed in a joint statement for greater cooperation from the Yemeni government.

A senior U.S. official in Aden said Saturday that the Americans are not displeased with the Yemenis’ level of cooperation.

One of the sailors killed in the bombing was buried Saturday, and the Navy recruiter who persuaded her to enlist just six months ago read a letter from her at the funeral. In the letter, Lakeina Monique Francis told Petty Officer Darnell Gamble how she did 100 sit-ups, 85 push-ups and ran a mile and a half in just over 12 minutes to pass a physical training test in boot camp.

``This is a girl who couldn’t do five push-ups in her life,″ Gamble said.

Francis was from Woodleaf, N.C., and was buried at the Salisbury National Cemetery in Salisbury, N.C.

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