Yemen, trying to shed an image
as a haven for Islamist militants, had initially said a fire set off
the explosion on the Limburg which killed one of the 25-member crew.
But on Thursday it conceded a terror attack was possible.
France, the Limburg's crew and its owners Euronav had said from
the start that Sunday's blast probably occurred after a small boat
rammed into the tanker's hull.
"Yemen is now convinced that it (explosion) was a pre-meditated
act but the question remains of who did it," said one of the Yemeni
The French-flagged Limburg was carrying 400,000 barrels of crude
when the blast gouged a huge hole in its hull.
On Friday, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said
traces of TNT had been found inside the tanker, a day after U.S. and
French experts found fiberglass debris from what could have been an
On Sunday, divers and anti-terror experts continued to search for
more evidence around the tanker, anchored in the Gulf of Aden off
the coast of Mukalla town, some 500 miles southeast of Sanaa.
A Western source told Reuters the oval-shaped hole in the body of
the Limburg was eight meters wide and about 11 yards high, with more
than half of it under water.
Experts said the blast bore many resemblances to the October 2000
bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Aden harbor. In that attack,
suicide bombers rammed a boat full of explosives into the Cole,
killing 17 U.S. servicemen.
Washington blames Osama bin Laden (news
sites)'s al Qaeda network for the Cole bombing and last month,
the U.S. Navy (news
sites) warned of possible al Qaeda attacks on oil tankers in the
Red Sea and Gulf which carry almost one third of the world's crude
France has said it expects Yemen to find and punish those
responsible if it turns out that the explosion was no accident.
Yemeni officials said police had arrested up to 20 people after
the blast. The Arab country is the ancestral home of bin Laden, whom
Washington also blames for last September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.