FBI: Plastic Explosive Used in Cole Bombing

ByABC News
November 1, 2000, 9:48 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, Nov. 1 -- FBI laboratory tests have concluded that C-4, a military-style plastic explosive, was used in the attack on theUSS Cole in Yemen, a federal law enforcement official saidtoday.

And in another development in the investigation, U.S. and Yemeninegotiators were near an agreement that would let FBI agents inYemen observe interviews with suspects and witnesses and submitquestions, but they could not participate directly in questioning,said the official, who requested anonymity.

President Clinton,Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and FBI Director Louis Freehhad appealed to Yemens leaders to allow joint questioning.

Two former counterterrorism officials said the use of C-4 in theattack that killed 17 U.S. sailors suggested at least that anorganized group was behind the attack. One of them said it raisedthe possibility of state support but fell short of conclusivelyindicating some government sponsored the attack.

C-4 is a plastic explosive developed for the U.S. military inthe Vietnam era. It lasts forever. It doesnt deteriorate, saidVince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism expert.

Used During Persian Gulf War

The explosive is made for military use in the United States andin at least several NATO nations. It is not available on the openmarket, like the fuel oil and fertilizer used to make the bomb thatdestroyed a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Although the C-4 formula is not a secret, one former U.S.military counterterrorism expert said, C-4 is not used inindustrial blasting. It usually comes from a military source.

Organized criminal groups have stolen C-4, this formermilitary official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Itrequires some amount of organization to do that. But it doesntrequire government-level support to get it.

Cannistraro said C-4 has been included in U.S. military sales toSaudi Arabia, Kuwait and even to Iran while the shah was still inpower. The U.S. military used it during the Persian Gulf war.