Terror threat for U.S. ships
in Yemen

By Joseph Farah

As French counterterrorism experts headed for Yemen today to investigate an explosion that set fire to a French oil tanker, a U.S. Navy assessment concludes it was a deliberate act of terror designed to lure U.S. ships into the Port of Aden for more attacks, WorldNetDaily has learned.

Navy and military intelligence analysts have already concluded based on flyovers and other information that the attack on the French-registered oil tanker Limburg was part of a tactic by terrorists to bring more U.S. ships into the region so they, too, can be attacked by small boats loaded with explosives.

It is believed the attackers may have used timers or simply jumped overboard before impact.

The Limburg is still in flames and leaking oil as a result of the attack. All but one crewmember have been rescued.

The ship’s owners have insisted all along that a small boat laden with explosives had deliberately rammed the 1,000-foot tanker as it approached an oil port in Yemen. Yemeni journalists who were allowed near the vessel said there was a hole less than a yard wide, at water level on the side of the tanker, with the edges of steel protruding outward, suggesting that it was caused by a blast inside the vessel.

The explosion on the Limburg follows a U.S. Navy warning last month that al-Qaida was planning ambushes on oil tankers in the Gulf region.

“According to unconfirmed reports circulating within the regional shipping community, the al-Qaida terrorist group has planned attacks against oil tankers transiting the Arabian Gulf and Horn of Africa areas,” said a little-noticed bulletin issued by the U.S. Navy’s Marine Liaison Office in Bahrain early last month.

It said the information, “provided … by higher authorities,” offered “no specific details on the timing or means of the planned attacks,” but “substantiates previous indications of al-Qaida intent to attack commercial shipping as a means of creating economic instability,” and recommended that “the threat should be regarded seriously.”

But U.S. military sources now say the threat is worse than that. They see the attack on the Limburg as bait for increased U.S. naval presence in the port region. Al-Qaida, they believe, has its sights set on U.S. warships as the real targets.

The Limburg’s owners say the ship was deliberately targeted. “We consider this a deliberate act,” said Jacques Moizan, director of Euronav, the French company that owns the ship. “The crew saw a high-speed vessel approaching on the starboard side … an explosion followed with fire.”

The attack was reminiscent of the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden two years ago, in which 17 U.S. sailors died. Washington has blamed Osama bin Laden for the Cole assault.

The Yemeni authorities have downplayed the terrorist threat. About 100 U.S. Special Operations troops are believed to be working there, based at a French facility in nearby Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.

The waters of the Gulf and neighboring areas are among the most heavily patrolled in the world: The U.S. 5th Fleet is there in force, the British Navy has maintained a strong presence there for nearly 20 years, and the French Navy regularly sends ships – including, recently, its sole aircraft carrier – to the region.