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Cole bomb suspects in jailbreak

The October 2000 attack on the USS Cole was blamed on al Qaeda.
The October 2000 attack on the USS Cole was blamed on al Qaeda.

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ADEN, Yemen (CNN) -- Yemeni authorities are hunting for 10 suspected terrorists, including two accused of taking part in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, who escaped from prison early Friday, a Yemeni government source told CNN.

Jamal al-Badawi and Fahd Al Qash, the two chief suspects in the attack on the American warship, were among the 10 prisoners who fled Al Mansourah prison, an Information Ministry source told CNN's Caroline Faraj.

There were 85 prisoners total in Al Mansourah, all suspected of being members of either al Qaeda or al Jihad, another terrorist group, the source said, adding that 17 are accused of participating in the bombing of the USS Cole.

The October 12, 2000, attack, which was blamed on al Qaeda, killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded 39.

Police in the port city of Aden distributed photographs of the ten men who escaped Friday and searched their relatives' homes, security officials said. They also added new checkpoints in and out of the city and tightened security at the prison, government sources said.

It was not clear how the prisoners managed to escape from the small, maximum-security prison in the early morning. An informed source told CNN they possibly escaped through their cell's window after cutting the window's iron bars. The sources did not know who may have helped the prisoners escape.

The prisoners were awaiting court dates.

Yemen, the ancestral home of al Qaeda leader bin Laden, has been a hotbed of terrorist activity.

Supporters of al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for several bombings targeting security officials and government offices in the past few months.

Yemen committed itself to joining the war on terrorism following the September 11 attacks in America and has allowed U.S. forces to enter the country and train its military.

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