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Williamsport seaman's father 'glad to hear' suspect charged in USS Cole bombing

U.S. to seek death penalty against Saudi in 2000 terrorist attack

U.S. to seek death penalty against Saudi in 2000 terrorist attack

July 01, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- It's been eight years since his 19-year-old son and 16 other American sailors were killed aboard the USS Cole, and the United States has yet to hold anyone accountable, Tom Wibberley said Monday.

Reacting to the news that the Pentagon is charging a Saudi Arabian with "organizing and directing" the terrorist bombing and will seek the death penalty, Wibberley said he was "glad to hear it."

Wibberley's son, U.S. Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley of Williamsport, and Fireman Patrick Roy of Keedysville were among those killed when the Navy destroyer was attacked in the Yemeni port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000.

Wibberley, who lives with his wife, Patricia, outside of Boonsboro, said the U.S. Justice Department told the couple several months ago that it would be putting Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi of Yemeni descent, on trial for his alleged role in their son's death.

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Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, legal adviser to the U.S. military tribunal system, said Monday that charges are being sworn against the alleged terrorist who has been held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2006.

The charges must be approved by a Defense Department official who oversees military tribunals set up for terrorism suspects. If they are approved, al-Nashiri will be the first person charged in the United States in connection with the attack.

Hartmann said the allegations include conspiracy to violate laws of war, murder, treachery, terrorism, destruction of property and intentionally causing serious bodily injury.

"It's been a long time, and anybody they can get that was responsible for the attack on the ship ... I hope they finally start making some of them pay for it," Wibberley said.

According to U.S. intelligence, al-Nashiri was tasked by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to attack the Cole, and also was al-Qaida's operations chief in the Arabian Peninsula until he was caught in 2002.

Wibberley supports the Pentagon's decision to pursue the death penalty in the case, he said.

"I think they ought to kill anyone they can get ahold of who was responsible for (the bombing) ... they ought to be put to death," Wibberley said.

While he is glad to hear about the upcoming trial, Wibberley said many of the people detained in Yemen in connection with the bombing have been released or have escaped.

"Nothing is being done over there," he said.

Asked why it had taken nearly eight years for the U.S. to charge anyone in the bombing, Hartmann said it takes time to gather and prepare evidence.

Wibberley is working to keep his son's memory alive through a memorial scholarship awarded each year to Washington County Technical High School graduates. Four students are awarded $1,000 scholarships.

Wibberley awards the scholarships in his son's memory to students who graduate in the field of computer technology, the same course of study that Craig pursued at the school.

Roy was also 19 at the time of his death. Nobody from his family could be reached for comment Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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