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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 February 2006, 16:29 GMT
Global alert for Yemen escapees
Destroyer USS Cole
Seventeen US sailors died in the attack on the USS Cole
Interpol has issued a global security alert for 23 dangerous convicts, at least 13 of them al-Qaeda linked, who broke out of a Yemeni jail on Friday.

The group includes a man said to be a mastermind of the 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole.

Another was linked to an attack in 2002 on the French tanker Limburg.

An Interpol statement said the escape presented a "clear and present danger to all countries", and the alert was authorised personally by its chief.

Secretary General Ronald Noble said in the statement that the escape was not an internal problem for Yemen alone, and urged the country to provide names, photos and fingerprints of the escaped men.

"Unless Interpol Red Notices are issued urgently for these fugitives and unless the world community commits itself to tracking them down, they will be able to travel internationally, to elude detection and to engage in future terrorist activity," he said.

The men broke out of a jail in the city of Sanaa, tunnelling 140m to a nearby mosque and escaping as people left after Friday prayers.

Bin Laden link

Yemeni officials said Jamal al-Badawi, who was serving 10 years for the attack on the USS Cole after his death sentence was commuted, and Fawaz al-Rabihi, who was sentenced to death for the attack on the Limburg, were among those who escaped.

Yemen, which is the ancestral home of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, has been an ally of the US-led war on terror since the 11 September attacks in 2001.

Seventeen US sailors were killed when two suicide bombers blew themselves up on an inflatable raft moored next to USS Cole in the southern Yemeni port of Aden in October 2000.

In October 2002, the French tanker Limburg, was attacked off Yemen's south-eastern coast. An explosion killed one Bulgarian crew member and wounded 12 others.

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