updated 4/22/2004 11:17:13 AM ET 2004-04-22T15:17:13

Security forces have arrested a Yemeni man suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors, a security official said Thursday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the man played a major role in the Oct. 12, 2000 attack, which saw two suicide bombers ram an explosives-laden boat into the destroyer in the harbor of Aden. Authorities in the United States and Yemen have said the attack was the work of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.

The man was identified only by his surname, al-Nagar. He was arrested earlier this month in a house in Lawdar, a town 155 miles southeast the capital San’a, the official said.

The official alleged that al-Nagar was a middleman between the suicide bombers and al-Qaida sympathizers in the town of Bouraiga who helped acquire the boat used in the attack.

Police arrested two other wanted al-Qaida militants from Yemen in the same town this month.

Last month, Yemeni forces recaptured 10 militants suspected of involvement in the Cole bombing following their escape from prison last year.

Yemen, a conservative country at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, is bin Laden’s ancestral homeland and has long been a hotbed of militant activity.

The country’s government, however, allied itself with the United States following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which have been blamed on al-Qaida. The government has also allowed U.S. forces into Yemen to train its military to combat militants.

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