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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 July, 2004, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Six charged over USS Cole attack
USS Cole
The US destroyer was refuelling in Aden when it was attacked
Six suspected al-Qaeda militants have been charged by a court in Yemen in connection with the 2000 bomb attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.

Five of the men appeared in court in the capital Sanaa. Suspected mastermind Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, believed to be in US custody, was charged in absentia.

The hearing, at which the suspects refused to plead, was held amid tight security and attended by US officials.

It is the first hearing towards a trial over the attack on the US ship.

Judge Najib al-Qari read out the charges, which include belonging to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network; forming an armed gang to carry out criminal acts; resisting authorities and forging documents.

The accused reportedly asked for lawyers.

A new hearing has been scheduled for next week.

Security

The area around the court in central Sanaa was cordoned off during the one-hour hearing.

Dozens of police and soldiers patrolled nearby streets and others watched from rooftops.

In October 2000, two attackers on a small boat carrying up to 500lb (225 kg) of high explosives rammed into the USS Cole as it was refuelling in Aden port.

Seventeen American sailors were killed, and at least 40 people were wounded.

Two of the accused, Jamal al-Badawi and Fahd al-Qusaa, were rearrested in March after escaping from jail in 2003.

The US accuses Mr Badawi of sheltering the suicide bombers and acquiring the boat they used for the attack.

Mr Qusaa is accused of facilitating the plot and preparing to film the attack.




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