|Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeiee|
|Died||October 1, 2006
Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeiee (Arabic: فواز يحيى الربيعي) (1979-2006) was an al-Qaeda terrorist, sentenced to death in 2004 by a Yemeni court for his part in the 2002 attack on the French tanker Limburg. Al-Rabeiee escaped custody in February 2006, with 22 other inmates, but was killed 1 October 2006 in San‘a’, along with another al-Qaeda suspect identified as Mohammed Daylami.
Al-Rabeii was a Yemeni national although born in Saudi Arabia. He became wanted in 2002, by the United States Department of Justice's FBI, which was then seeking information about his identity and whereabouts. In early 2002, he had been named as the cell leader in a suspected Yemen plot, for which he became listed on the FBI's third major "wanted" list, now known as the FBI Seeking Information - War on Terrorism list.
Al-Rabeiee was considered to be the "ring leader" of his Yemen terrorist cell. In 2002, he had been identified by the FBI as traveling on Yemeni passport 00452004. His identified aliases included Fawaz Yahia Hassan Aribii, Fawaz al-Rubai, Fawaz Yehia Hassan al-Rabie, Fawaz Yahya Hasan al-Rabi'i, Fawaz Yahya al-Ribi (al-Ruba'i, al-Rabia'i, al-Rabi'i), Forqan al-Tajiki, Furqan al-Tajiki, Furgan al-Tajiki, Furqan the Chechen, Faris al-Baraq, Sa'id Musharraf, and Salem al-Farhan. "Furqan al-Tajiki" is the addressee of a letter, found in Afghanistan, which appears to have been written by his brother Salman Yahya Hassan Mohammed Rabeii.
USS Cole bombing
On October 12, 2000, one year prior to 9/11, Yemen became an early theater in the War on Terrorism, when the 2000 USS Cole bombing killed 17 American sailors and wounded 40 off the port coast of Aden, Yemen. In the aftermath, the government of Yemen rounded up numerous suspected terrorists, many of whom were identified as members of al-Qaeda.
Historically, Yemen has tolerated Islamist terrorism. However, it cracked down on such groups after the September 11 attacks. After the Cole bombing, Yemen allowed U.S. forces to train its troops against terrorism and worked with the CIA.
February 12, 2002 terror alert
In early 2002, according to an FBI report, as a result of US military operations in Afghanistan and of on-going interviews of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, information became available on February 11, 2002 regarding threats to US interests which indicated that a planned attack may have been about to occur in the United States or against US interests in the country of Yemen on or around the next day, February 12, 2002.
In response, on February 11, 2002, Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei became one of 17 suspected terrorists added by the FBI to the "Seeking Information" list. The early version of that list was then known as the "Most Wanted Terrorists Seeking Information" list. Years later, the FBI removed his profile from the main page of that list.
On February 14, 2002, several days after the alert, six of the names were removed, and the FBI re-published the list as only eleven names and photos, because it was discovered that confusion over transliteration had failed to reveal initially that the removed six wanted terrorists were already in prison in Yemen.
The six names identified in the Yemen plot on February 11, 2002, but who were removed from the list on February 14, 2002 as already in Yemen custody were: Issam Ahmad Dibwan al-Makhlafi, Ahmad al-Akhader Nasser Albidani, Bashir Ali Nasser al-Sharari, Abdulaziz Muhammad Saleh bin Otash, Shuhour Abdullah Mukbil al-Sabri and Riyadh Shikawi.
Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei remained listed among the eleven names still being sought on February 14, 2002. The others who also remained were: Alyan Muhammad Ali al-Wa'eli, Bassam Abdullah bin Bushar al-Nahdi, Mustafa Abdulkader Aabed al-Ansari, Omar Ahmad Omar al-Hubishi, Ammar Abadah Nasser al-Wa'eli, Samir Abduh Sa'id al-Maktawi, Abdulrab Muhammad Muhammad Ali al-Sayfi, Abu Nasr al-Tunisi, Abu Mu'az al-Jeddawi and Amin Saad Muhammad al-Zumari.
2002 attacks and plots
Whether foiled, aborted, or merely incorrect specific intelligence, the February 12, 2002 attack never occurred. However, there were a number of plots and attacks in Yemen which followed later that year, which involved the al-Rabeei cell.
Two suicide bombers rammed an explosive-laden boat into the oil tanker, killing a Bulgarian crew member and spilling 90,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Aden. This operation was very similar to the attack on the American destroyer USS Cole two years earlier. Saudi born Abdulraheem al-Nashiri, prime suspect of the USS Cole bombing (currently in the US custody), paid $40,000 to fund the Limburg attack. With that money, the former Al Qaida leader Abu Ali al-Harithi bought the explosives and transported them from his house in Shabwa to Mukalla in Hadramut. Later in 2002, Al-Harithi was killed by the CIA with a missile fired from a Predator drone.
Al-Rabeiee's conviction also included the detonation of explosives at a civil aviation authority building in April 2002 and then after the Limburg attack, the attack on a helicopter carrying Hunt Oil Co. employees in November 2002.
By February 2, 2003, the FBI rearranged its entire wanted lists on its web site, into the current configuration. Al-Rabeiee was one of the remaining eleven Yemen plot suspects archived to a linked page titled, "February 2002, Seeking Information Alert". Around this time the FBI also changed the name of the list, to the FBI "Seeking Information - War on Terrorism", to distinguish it from its other wanted list of "Seeking Information," which the FBI already uses for ordinary fugitives, those who are not terrorists.
Capture and trial
After al-Rabeei was caught, the trial began, on May 29, 2004 and centered on the October 2002 bombing of the Limburg.
On July 10, 2004, during a court hearing, several of the accused threatened the prosecutor by stating that they would cut off his legs.
Fawaz al-Rabeiee was sentenced to death for the Limburg attack. He was also fined $100,000 to compensate for the aviation building damages.
Seven others were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Five of the militants—Ibraheem Mohammed al-Huwaidi, Aref Saleh Ali Mujali, Mohammed Abdullah al-Dailami, Abdulghani Ali Hussein Kaifan and Kasem Yahia al-Raimee—were sentenced to five years in prison. They were found guilty of plotting attacks against the US, French, UK, Cuban and German embassies, and plotting to assassinate the former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen. One of the 15 accused was sentenced to death for killing a Yemeni police officer.
Mr. Fayez al-Hajoury, a lawyer who represented Fawzi Halabi, a defendant who received a 10 years sentence, described the verdicts as "null and void" and stated that the work of the defense attorneys was obstructed by authorities. Saleh Majali, the father of the man sentenced to death, angrily stated that the whole trial was a "sham", with no respect to human rights. The father of defendant Abdulkareem Kaifan stated that he though the verdict had been decided from the start and the whole trial was a "decoration" to pass the verdict. The defendants vowed to appeal their verdicts and sentences.
Mass escape from Yemen
|Wikinews has news coverage related to this article:|
On February 3, 2006, 23 people, 12 of them al-Qaeda members, escaped from a Yemeni jail in San'a, according to a BBC report. Al-Rabeei was among the group, which reportedly escaped by digging a tunnel, 140 metres, which took them to a nearby mosque.
However, none of the 17 Yemen plot suspects from the 2002 terror alert appeared again among the newly listed FBI "wanted" list names in relation to the Yemen escape of 2006.
- Al Qaeda fugitives killed in Yemen, Gulf News, 1 October 2006
- Yemen forces kill 2 top Al Qaeda fugitives, Australian Broadcasting Corp., 2 October 2006
- Three declassified letters from the Harmony database, United States Military Academy; see page 14
- FBI Most Wanted Terrorists Seeking Information 2-11-02, (dead link)
- FBI Most Wanted Terrorists Seeking Information 2-14-02, revision by FBI removed 6 Yemen prisoners' names from the list (dead link)
- FBI Seeking Information - War on Terrorism archive page at the Wayback Machine (archived February 2, 2003)
- Hunt on for Yemeni jailbreakers, BBC, February 4, 2006
- Recent Escapees From Yemen Prison Added to Most Wanted Terrorists and Seeking Information - War on Terrorism Lists, FBI national Press Release, February 23, 2006