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Remains of 1 Cole bomber found, U.S. officials say
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Investigators have found remains of at least one person believed to have been on the small boat used to bomb the USS Cole, two U.S. administration officials told CNN on Friday.
Yemeni officials told CNN on Thursday that investigators had retrieved teeth from the ocean. While U.S. officials would not directly confirm that this body part had been found, one official explained, "When they're involved in a bombing they don't completely vaporize ... but tooth or bone matter will be analyzed along with what they [investigators] found in other places."
One bomber identified
Other U.S. officials said Yemeni investigators have identified one of the two bombers as a Yemeni, born in the eastern province of Hadramaut. Yemeni officials told U.S. officials they believe the second bomber was of Yemeni origin.
Since the investigation began, investigators have begun analyzing a variety of materials retrieved from the suspects' apartment in Yemen, and from other, unspecified locations.
U.S. officials said they will try to get a DNA sample from the remains and added that the FBI laboratory has not completed its report on forensic work done in recent weeks.
On October 12, suicide bombers in a small, explosives-laden boat approached the Cole while it was refueling in Aden harbor and detonated the explosives, ripping a 60-by-40-foot hole in the steel hull.
The blast killed 17 American sailors and injured 39.
Yemeni officials told CNN on Thursday that some of the suspects in the bombing have been or were in Afghanistan "at one time or another." But they said no direct link has been made to accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who is living in Afghanistan.
Experience in Afghanistan
"There are a reduced number of trails to follow," said a U.S. official. It is "increasingly unlikely that state sponsors of terrorism are behind this," he said.
But this official cautioned that, just as "mystery novels take odd turns, this story too, could change in the last three or four pages."
In addition, he said, the United States is assuming the investigation could be wrapped up within a matter of weeks and that they now have "a fair idea" which direction to move.
The bin Laden trail
U.S. officials said the trail is increasingly leading in the direction of Osama bin Laden. However officials stress other possibilities cannot be eliminated, including at least one Islamic terrorist organization with no known ties to bin Laden.
Meanwhile, the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that would give U.S. investigators greater access to witnesses and suspects is still awaiting the approval of Yemeni President Saleh, officials say.
U.S. officials said cooperation with the Yemenis is good, but one senior policy maker did draw a line in the sand.
"Were Saleh to further delay [signing this MOU] over the next few days," he said, "then the U.S. might begin to question his commitment to a fully joint investigation."
This official did not elaborate on what the U.S. reaction might be.
Yemen, U.S. disagreement
On Thursday, senior Yemeni officials said the investigation into the attack on the USS Cole was almost over. But U.S. officials strongly denied the investigation was close to a conclusion.
"Things are going well," a senior Yemeni official, who asked not to be identified, told CNN. "They are very close to concluding the investigation."
A published report Thursday in Yemen quoted Yemen's interior minister, Hussein Mohammad Arab, as saying, "Yemeni security investigators have gotten closer to concluding the ongoing investigation into the USS Cole bombing."
Hussein was further quoted as saying, "The security forces have arrested a number of people accused in the case. The case will be transferred to the prosecution within the upcoming weeks."
Two senior U.S. officials, however, denied that the investigation is close to a conclusion. They said the United States has no plans to take any suspects to court anytime soon.
"The Yemenis have been trying to wrap up the investigation since it began," one U.S. official said. "That's certainly not the opinion of the FBI."
Also on Thursday, an interior ministry official told CNN a video camera and pager were found in a fourth house involved with the investigation.
According to Yemeni officials, the person living in the house was to be paged with the code "101010," giving him the go-ahead to get to the site and film the explosion. But this person apparently fell asleep, then realized he had failed his mission and ran away, leaving the evidence behind.
A Yemeni official also confirmed that the bomb used in the attack was a mixture of C-4 and TNT.
Yemeni and U.S. officials differ on whether Cole investigation is almost over
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