Families of Cole Victims: Still Awaiting Justice 10 Years Later

By Dyhouse, Tim | VFW Magazine, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Families of Cole Victims: Still Awaiting Justice 10 Years Later


Dyhouse, Tim, VFW Magazine


A decade after 17 U.S. sailors died in an Islamic terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, no one has been brought to justice. In fact, all of the suspected attackers have escaped from prison, have been freed by Yemen or are still awaiting trial.

The terror of Oct. 12, 2000, finally proved too much for Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Johann Gokool. Gokool, who died Dec. 23 last year, was one of 47 sailors wounded 10 years ago when Islamic terrorists blew a 40-foot hole in his ship, the USS Cole, while it was in port at Aden, Yemen. The electronic warfare technician lost his left leg in the attack and was rated 100% disabled for PTSD.

Gokool had suffered from severe panic attacks ever since the incident, and his relatives believe that is probably what caused his heart to give out the night he died in his bed.

"He didn't like to be in public in strange places," his sister, Natala, told The Miami Herald. "He'd be stuck in his room for days. He lived like an owl."

Yemen Slow to Cooperate

In the 10 years since the attack, the families of the 17 sailors killed are still awaiting justice. Some 33 relatives are waiting for compensation - $200,000 each from Sudan, which a district judge ruled in 2007 was responsible for training and funding the terrorists.

But no real legal punishment has been meted out yet, and some U.S. officials believe it is because Yemen lacks the political will to do so. For example, only one of the terrorists linked to the bombing, Jamal al-Badawi in 2004, was sentenced to death. But since then he has escaped from prison, turned himself in, was pardoned by the Yemeni government and then re-imprisoned when the U.S. government protested and threatened to withhold financial aid.

In November 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that another Cole suspect, Abd al-Rahim alNashiri, would face trial before a military commission this past summer at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As of early August, the trial had not yet taken place.

Meanwhile, the USS Cole has been repaired and is currently completing its fourth overseas deployment since the attack.

Over the last 10 years, relatives of the Cole's deceased sailors have continued to honor the memories of their loved ones. Annual commemorations are held at the USS Cole Memorial in Norfolk, Va. Information about the memorial can be accessed online at www.cole.navy.mil.

Here is a brief timeline of what has occurred since the bombing, one punctuated by Yemeni duplicity.

2000

Two terrorists in a small, bomb-laden boat detonate their cargo alongside the USS Cole while it is in port at Aden, killing 17 sailors and wounding 47. The Cole returns Dec. 24 to the Ingalls Shipyard at Pascagoula, Miss., where it was built in 1995, for a 14-month repair effort.

2002

A missile fired from a CIA-operated Predator drone on Nov. 3 destroys the truck of suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. The target of the attack is Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a top alQaeda operative thought to have been involved in the Cole bombing.

2003

On April 11, 10 suspects in the Cole bombing escape from prison in Aden. The escapees include al-Qaeda operatives Jamal al-Badawi and Fahad al-Quso.

2004

In March, all 10 escapees from the April 1 1, 2003, jail break are recaptured in Yemen.

On May 27, the Cole returns from its first deployment since the terrorist attack. The destroyer spent six months in the Mediterranean supporting Operation Active Endeavor.

In September, al-Quso is sentenced to 10 years in prison in Yemen and al-Badawi is sentenced to death.

2006

On Feb. 3, 23 inmates escape from a prison in Sana'a, Yemen's capital. Among the escapees is Jamal al-Badawi, who is later pardoned by the Yemeni government. The inmates allegedly tunnel their way from the prison into the bathroom of a neighboring mosque. …

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