Yemen has set free one of the Al Qaeda masterminds of the bombing that killed 17 American sailors aboard the destroyer Cole in 2000, a senior security official said Thursday.
Jamal Mohammed Ahmad Ali Badawi, who is wanted by the FBI, was convicted in 2004 of plotting, preparing and helping carry out the Cole bombing in the Yemeni port of Aden. He received a death sentence that was commuted to 15 years in prison.
He and 22 others, mostly Al Qaeda fighters, escaped from prison last year. But Badawi was granted his freedom after turning himself in 15 days ago and pledging loyalty to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Witnesses said Badawi was receiving well-wishers at his home in Aden.
Badawi had escaped prison once before, in April 2003, with nine other suspects of the Cole attack, but was rearrested.
Al Qaeda had an active presence in Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden. The group was blamed for the Cole bombing and the attack on a French oil tanker that killed one person two years later. Since a suicide attack in July that killed eight Spanish tourists at a Yemeni temple, Saleh has said that his government has reached a truce with the terrorist network.