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Court upholds death sentence in USS Cole bombing

USS Cole

(CNN) -- A Yemeni appeals court on Saturday upheld a death sentence for a man convicted of being the mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole, but reduced a death sentence given to a second man, a government official told CNN.

Saudi-born Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was sentenced to death in September for his involvement in the bombing, including plotting and preparing. The court upheld his sentence.

But accomplice Jamal Ahmed Ali al-Badawi of Yemen, who initially was also sentenced to death, had his sentence reduced to 15 years in prison.

At the hearing, held Saturday under tight security, al-Badawi shouted from inside the defendants' cage, "This is an un-Islamic and illegal sentence."

In the October 12, 2000 attack -- blamed on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network -- a pair of suicide bombers pulled an explosives-laden boat alongside the 505-foot destroyer just after it arrived in Aden harbor to refuel. The subsequent blast ripped a 40-by-40-foot hole in the side of the ship, killing 17 U.S. service personnel and both bombers. Thirty-nine sailors were wounded.

Four others believed involved in the attack were sentenced to terms ranging from 5 to 10 years. The appeals court on Saturday upheld one 10-year jail sentence and two 5-year sentences, but reduced a fourth sentence from 8 to 5 years.

All the defendants at Saturday's hearing shouted "God is great," and accused the judges of working for the White House.

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