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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK
Yemen says tanker blast was terrorism
Limburg off Yemen
Yemen initially said the blast was an accident
Yemeni authorities have publicly acknowledged that the blast which ripped through a French tanker was a deliberate act of terrorism.

Investigator examines items on the shore near where the Limburg blast occurred
Investigators believe the tanker was rammed by a small boat

Yemen's Interior Minister, Rashad al-Alimi, told the country's official news agency Saba that the explosion on 6 October was "a deliberate act of terror carried out by an explosive-laden boat".

Tests of items collected by investigators on the ship also revealed traces of explosives, the minister said.

It is the first time a Yemeni government minister has acknowledged that the blast on the Limburg oil tanker, which killed one crew member and sent more than 90,000 barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Aden, was deliberate.

Yemeni authorities have tightened security around the country's ports following the attack, the country's sea transport ministry announced on Wednesday.

The admission also comes as the Paris public prosecutor's anti-terrorist division began an investigation into the tanker explosion, judicial sources told French news agency AFP.

Boat theory

It is now thought that the Limburg was rammed by a small boat noticed shortly before the blast occurred.

The theory was backed up by the earlier discovery of fragments from a small marine vessel on the deck of the Limburg.

Last Friday, French investigators had found traces of TNT explosives on the tanker, providing the strongest evidence yet that the explosion was due to a terrorist attack.

Since the explosion, the French defence ministry has heightened security for French citizens in the Middle East, and has been considering military escorts for French commercial vessels in the region.

The style of the attack resembled the suicide bombing of the US warship Cole in Yemen's Aden port in 2000, which killed 17 American sailors - an attack blamed on al-Qaeda militants.

See also:

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