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Suspect in USS Cole bombing kills self in Yemen

Al-Hada was wanted in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.
Al-Hada was wanted in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.  

SANA'A, Yemen (CNN) -- A suspected al Qaeda terrorist wanted in connection with the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole blew himself up with a grenade late Wednesday as Yemeni security forces closed in on him in Yemen's capital city, security sources said.

Authorities had gone to a suspected al Qaeda hideout, a house in a poor section of Sana'a's downtown, and a firefight ensued. The suspect jumped into a taxi, and as authorities tried to stop the vehicle, the man pulled out a grenade and was apparently trying to throw it when it exploded in his hand, sources said.

A police statement identified the suspect as Sameer Mohammed al-Hada, a 25-year-old Yemen native. He was one of the most important people on a list of wanted al Qaeda suspects that the United States had given to Yemeni officials, sources said.

Al-Hada was wanted in connection with the bombing of the Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded 39. Yemeni security sources said al-Hada had trained in Afghanistan.

Samir Ahmed Mohammed Al-Hada apparently killed himself while being pursued by Yemeni police. CNN's Brent Sadler reports (February 14)

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Security sources said al-Hada's family extensive ties to terrorism. One of al-Hada's sisters was married to one of the suspected September 11 hijackers who piloted an American Airlines jet into the Pentagon. His other sister, they said, is married to Mustafa Abdulkader Aabed al-Ansari, a Yemen native whose name showed up on an FBI terrorist alert late Monday.

In that alert, the FBI warned law enforcement agencies and the public to be on the lookout for 18 suspected al Qaeda operatives, most from Yemen, who are planning an attack against U.S. interests. Al-Hada's name was not on the terror alert.

In addition, one U.S. official said, al-Hada "was also the son of a man believed to be prominent in Al Qaeda."

Yemen cracks down on al Qaeda

The relationship between the United States and Yemen occasionally became strained in the months following the Cole bombing, with cultural differences hindering cooperation between the two countries.

That changed following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, visited Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih this week, and President Bush called Salih on Monday, thanking him for his country's cooperation in the fight against terror.

One U.S. official said Yemen had "one of the most significant" al Qaeda organizational links in the world. Thousands of veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war live in Yemen and are capable of launching "uncoordinated or coordinated attacks," diplomatic sources told CNN in October.

Yemen's government said at the time that it has deported about 5,000 non-Yemen fighters since 1998, and Yemen's interior minister issued a warning against hiding suspected al Qaeda members late last year.

Saleh traveled to Washington in November to discuss the USS Cole attack as well as the September 11 attacks and the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

In December, Yemeni special forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, attacked two tribes suspected of supporting al Qaeda. The troops had been trained by the United States. And in January, Yemen alerted U.S. officials of a credible threat by al Qaeda against U.S. interests in Yemen, including the U.S. Embassy, State Department spokesman Richard Bouchard said.

Salih has recently said his forces will not stop in their pursuit of the wanted al Qaeda terrorists until they are captured or killed.

-- CNN Correspondents Brent Sadler and David Ensor contributed to this report.




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