Source: AFP, By Olivia Hampton, 13/10/2010
WASHINGTON — Ten years after a blast ripped through the USS Cole, killing 17 US sailors, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Al-Qaeda is pursuing a "murderous agenda" in increasingly violent Yemen.
Denouncing Al-Qaeda's "outrageous attack" that also injured 39 other sailors, Obama paid tribute to "the courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives in this attack, and to their families."
Over the past decade, Yemen has morphed into a haven for violent extremists, becoming the headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the hiding place for US-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, who was linked to high-profile terror plots in the United States.
"Al-Qaeda continues to use Yemen, as well as other places around the world, as platforms from which to pursue its murderous agenda, and we continue to work closely with our Yemeni and other global partners to counter the Al-Qaeda threat," the president said in a statement.
"As we do, we will always remember those we lost on the USS Cole, and we will honor their legacy of selfless service by advancing the values that they stood for throughout their lives."
The bombing took place just 11 months before Al-Qaeda militants hijacked planes in the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.
At Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, survivors and victims families gathered at the USS Cole's homeport to remember the lives that were lost on that October day 10 years ago when suicide bombers launched and detonated an explosive-laden ship that blasted a huge hole in the guided missile destroyer.
"Our enemies knew what they were doing that morning when they attacked the Cole: a powerful symbol of the might and majesty of the United States," Fleet Forces Command chief Admiral John Harvey told a crowd, according to remarks reported by the Navy Times.
The USS Cole has since been upgraded, repaired and redeployed but relatives of the victims have expressed frustration that no trial has been held yet for a Saudi detainee at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp suspected of plotting the attack.
"We'd like to see those who took this action against our ship and our sailors brought to justice and justice done," Harvey told WTKR television.
Shortly after he took office last year, Obama withdrew the charges against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri amid political wrangling over how and where to try him.
In a stark reminder of just how precarious security has become in Yemen, twin bomb blasts killed three people at a sports centre in Aden on Monday, raising security fears ahead of an international football tournament in the restive south.
On the same day as the attacks, Al-Qaeda's Yemeni branch announced it was creating an "Aden-Abyan Army" named after two provinces that will host the matches with participants from Yemen, Iraq and six Gulf states.
Security fears have risen in Yemen's south following a string of similar attacks, most recently on Sunday when assailants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a police patrol, wounding one person.
And on October 7, dozens of protesters invaded Aden's Al-Shoala sports club, where some of the football matches are to be held, and demanded the release of people arrested in common law cases.
Government forces are also facing a separatist movement advocating the secession of Yemen's southern provinces, which joined with the north in 1990.