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.
As for the unnamed defense intelligence analyst who was said by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to have quit over his superiors’ handling of a counter-terrorism intelligence analysis he had prepared, he“ll be meeting with the head of the defense intelligence service, Adm. Tom Wilson, who will discuss his concerns, Bacon said.
Standing Ovation for Sailors
Back Stateside, the 17 sailors killed during the Oct. 12 attack on the Cole were honored at the fourth game of the World Series last night with an emotional standing ovation before the National Anthem.
Five of the 39 injured sailors were at New York’s Shea Stadium for the game, and they also appeared this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Chief Petty Officer Michael Russell, from Columbus, Pa., said baseball fans came up to the sailors at the game to thank them for serving their country. He felt proud to be there, he said.
“It was a tribute to the sailors that we lost and the sailors still in Yemen fighting for the safety of the ship,” he said.
Can They Prove a Link?
Though American officials insist they do not yet know who was responsible for the attack on the Cole, intelligence sources tell ABCNEWS that investigators have little doubt that bin Laden was behind it — that he financed it and sent one of his top people to organize it.
The United States could not yet prove it in court, one official said, but the evidence is compelling.
American officials say they are once again discussing ways the United States might retaliate, though sources insist any American military action is still a long way off.
A representative of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban in the United States said that “if the U.S. government or any other government provided us evidence, we are willing to take [bin Laden] to trial, according to their desire and their demands.”
But Taliban spokesman Abdul Hakim Mujahid, speaking at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts on Wednesday, doubted there was any evidence tying bin Laden to the attack.
ABCNEWS’ John Miller in Aden, Yemen, ABCNEWS.com’s David Ruppe, and The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.