Egyptian Link to Cole Bombing?

A bomb threat last night at the hotel where FBI investigators are staying in Aden has led to heightened security, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

“We did receive a called-in threat and security measures were taken,” Kenneth Bacon said at a Pentagon press briefing today.

Already strict security measures were further tightened today. All civilian traffic coming within 500 yards of the hotel are now being turned away by the military.

The threat came as the FBI technical team collecting evidence from the Cole prepared to head home today. Other FBI investigators, who are trying to trace the culprits in the bombing, are remaining in Yemen.

The attack on the USS Cole on Oct. 12 as it sat in port in Aden, Yemen, apparently by two suicide bombers, killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 39.

Possible Egyptian Connection

On Arabic satellite television channel MBC, President Ali Abdullah Saleh said eyewitnesses had identified one of the two suicide bombers as Egyptian.

Saleh also said several senior members of a Muslim militant group called Islamic Jihad have been detained in connection with the blast. There are several groups which go by the name Islamic Jihad, including one Egyptian and one Palestinian group, but Saleh didn’t specify which group was involved.

Saleh said the detainees included Yemenis, Egyptians, and Algerians, and described the group as composed of Arabs who fought Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden was prominently involved in the Afghan resistance and now lives in Afghanistan, but Saleh declined to say whether the attackers or detainees had any connection to bin Laden’s Al-Qaida group.

Top Brass Discusses Protection

This morning, in an unusual worldwide video conference, Defense Secretary William Cohen and Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed how to protect U.S. forces abroad with the commanders of all major regional commands. That includes the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. forces in the Middle East.

“The goal, basically, was to make a good system better, and to use the concern that's been generated by the attack against the Cole as an opportunity for all six commanders in chief to make sure they are reviewing their force protection postures and procedures,” Bacon said.

During the 76-minute call, the commanders discussed using new technologies for force protection and whether more money is needed to keep U.S. troops safe, he said.

“Obviously, if there's going to be enhanced force protection in certain ways, it would require greater resources,” he said.

Questions Over Intelligence

Bacon said there were two intelligence reports mentioning threats and Yemen around the time of the attack on the Cole, one report shortly before the attack and one shortly after — but that neither were specific enough to have prevented the bombing.

“There was nothing specific in these reports that would lead anyone to assume that, one, an attack was imminent and, two, the target of the attack … the reports did not provide enough specificity to allow any skipper or military commander to make a decision to change behavior based on these reports,” he said.

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