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Second terrorist ID'd in Yemen jailbreak

FBI: Jaber Elbaneh was part of Lackawanna cell

From Barbara Starr and Terry Frieden
CNN

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Jaber Elbaneh, seen in these photos distributed by the FBI in 2003, is believed to be at large.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Another terrorist wanted in the United States was identified among the escapees from a Yemeni prison last week, the FBI said Wednesday.

Jaber Elbaneh, a U.S. citizen, is charged in this country with providing material support to terrorists and is a known member of a cell in Lackawanna, New York, a few miles from Buffalo, the agency said. He was among the men in Yemeni custody who escaped from a prison through a 140-meter (150-yard) tunnel to a nearby mosque.

Elbaneh, 39, dodged the fate of six of his Lackawanna counterparts, who pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges in 2003 and are serving seven- to 10-year sentences in federal prison.

The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Elbaneh, who is suspected of traveling with the other six men to Afghanistan to train at an al Qaeda camp.

"Elbaneh is considered dangerous and is a threat to the U.S. and its interests. The FBI will work with its domestic and international partners to locate and arrest Jaber Elbaneh," FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said.

Earlier, the reputed mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, Gamal Ahmed Badawi, was identified as among the 23 prison escapees.

Badawi was sentenced to death in September 2004 for orchestrating the October 2000 attack on the Cole. Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 others were wounded when two suicide bombers detonated an explosives-laden boat next to the destroyer while it was docked in Aden, Yemen.

Investigators are exploring the possibility that the Yemeni jailbreak was an "inside job" involving members of the Yemeni security forces, said sources familiar with the investigation. Some members of the prison staff have been detained for questioning, the sources said. (Watch the danger posed by the escapees being on the lam -- 2:07)

Government-supported Yemeni newspapers are reporting that inmates chanted inside the prison to mask the sound of digging, and officials at a nearby mosque were aware of the digging but ignored it.

U.S. law enforcement and defense officials said that the FBI and other agencies are involved in the search for the escapees, but they gave no indication of how the investigation is progressing.

The international crime-fighting organization Interpol said Sunday that at least 13 of the 23 who escaped Friday were "convicted al Qaeda terrorists, some of whom were involved in attacks on U.S. and French ships in 2000 and 2002."

Interpol has issued an "international blue notice" for the escapees, clearing the way for other nations to detain the men even if there is not a formal arrest warrant.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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