SANAA (AFP) — Yemen denied on Wednesday reports that an Al-Qaeda fighter convicted of taking part in the bombing of the USS Cole had been freed from jail for a second time, saying he had never been released.
"Jamal al-Badawi, who was convicted for the (2000) attack on the American warship USS Cole is still in prison and continues to serve his sentence," an interior ministry official was quoted as saying by the official Saba news agency.
The comments followed reports published on Tuesday by Yemeni daily Al-Wassat that Badawi was free and was living in Maareb province.
"Badawi has good relations with the political security leaders," the newspaper added, without providing further details.
He was sentenced to death in September 2004 for his part in the bomb attack, which killed 17 sailors, and which was claimed by Al-Qaeda. An appeals court later commuted the sentence to 15 years in jail.
He broke out of jail in February 2006 with 22 other Al-Qaeda militants and was put on a US most-wanted list with a five-million dollar bounty on his head.
Locals from Badawi's village told AFP that after more than a year on the run he handed himself in to authorities in October but was allowed to return home after making a pledge not to engage in violent or Al-Qaeda activity.
The United States suspended until further notice a 20.6 million dollar aid package for Yemen after learning of Badawi's release. Washington later said it had confirmed that he had been reincarcerated, but there has been no announcement on the fate of the aid package.
Yemen is the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
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