The damaged USS Cole, aboard the Blue Marlin, is escorted to Pascagoula, Miss., on Dec. 13, 2000. (USCG photo by PA2 Patrick Montgomery)

USS Cole Bombing Operative Jamal al-Badawi Killed in Airstrike

It took nearly 20 years, but Jamal al-Badawi, one of the terrorists behind the deadly attack on the USS Cole, was killed in a drone strike on Jan. 1. U.S. Central Command announced that it was investigating the key al-Qaeda figure’s death in a Friday tweet, and President Trump confirmed his death in a tweet on Sunday morning.

Trump said that al-Badawi was the mastermind of the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the guided missile destroyer in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 others injured.

Two hours later, CENTCOM confirmed al-Badawi’s death in a tweet, and said that he was killed in a New Year’s Day airstrike in Yemen’s Marib Governorate. It is not known who else may have been killed or injured in the strike.

“Jamal al-Badawi was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2003, charged with 50 counts o f various terrorism offenses, including murder of U.S. nationals and murder of U.S. military personnel; is wanted by the U.S. for his role in the Oct. 12, 2000 terrorist attack against the USS Cole; and is also charged with attempting with co-conspirators to attack a U.S. Navy vessel in January 2000,” CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban tweeted on Jan. 4.

The Yemeni national was believed to be in his late 50s, and was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a $5 million reward posted for information leading to his capture. After the attack, al-Badawi fled north and was later arrested by Yemeni authorities working with the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He escaped prison numerous times, but was initially captured and indicted in 2003.

The 2003 Justice Department indictment charged that al-Badawi trained in al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s. He was also wanted for plotting a similar attack in January 2000 that failed when the small boat used to ferry the explosives sank from excessive weight. The indictment said that al-Badawi was a “key operative in Aden, who was enlisted to participate in the attacks by members of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle,” and that “al-Badawi helped to procure safe houses in Aden for the terrorists, and obtained the attack boat and the truck and trailer used to tow the boat to Aden harbor.”

Former FBI Agent Ali Soufan, the lead investigator into the attack on the USS Cole, told NPR that al-Badawi was not the mastermind.

“He was the logistical guy on the ground,” Soufan said. “The coordinator and the main planner of the attack, Abd al-Nashiri, is still alive in Guantanamo Bay. Every time someone says Badawi was the mastermind, they’re hurting the case against Nashiri.”

Multimedia journalist James Cullum is Managing Editor of Homeland Security Today's Federal Pages. He has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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