USS Cole plotter escapes prison
Among the escapees was Jamal Ahmed Badawi, considered the mastermind of the USS Cole attack.
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(CNN) -- Interpol has issued "an urgent global security alert" after 23 "dangerous individuals" -- including a man identified as the mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 -- escaped from a Yemeni prison.
The international crime-fighting organization said Sunday at least 13 of the 23 who escaped Friday were "convicted al Qaeda terrorists, some of whom were involved in attacks on U.S. and French ships in 2000 and 2002."
"Al Qaeda terrorists have been deemed a serious threat to the entire world community by the U.N. Security Council, by Interpol and by a wide range of countries," Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said in the statement.
They escaped via a 140-meter (150-yard) -long tunnel "dug by the prisoners and co-conspirators outside," Interpol said.
"Their escape cannot be considered an internal problem for Yemen alone."
Among the escapees was Jamal Ahmed Badawi, considered the mastermind behind the attack on the USS Cole on October 12, 2000.
Badawi was sentenced to death in September 2004 for plotting the attack. Two suicide bombers blew up an explosives-laden boat next to the destroyer while the destroyer was in the Aden, Yemen, harbor for a routine fuel stop.
The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others.
A U.S. government official with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN that Yemeni security forces have launched a nationwide manhunt for the escaped prisoners. Elite counterterrorism units are among the troops taking part in the search, the official said.
The official called the escape a "major setback" for Yemen, but says the country is sharing information about the situation with the United States.
The FBI released a statement saying that information about the escape was "currently coming in through government channels."
"We are closely monitoring the situation at this time and we will work with our domestic and international partners to actively pursue these dangerous terrorists through the means we have available," the statement said.
Also among the escapees was Fawaz Yahya Al-Rabeei, one of those responsible for attacking the French tanker Limburg in 2002.
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