SAN`A, Yemen – Yemeni authorities have released 113 militants belonging to the Al Qaeda (search) network — including at least five once accused of involvement in the deadly bombing of the USS Cole (search) — after they recanted their extremist views, security officials said Thursday.
The militants once accused in the USS Cole bombing were later cleared. The 15 Yemeni militants convicted in August of involvement in the 2000 bombing, which killed 17 U.S. sailors, were not released.
The 113 men were released during the past two weeks after signing pledges not to carry out terror acts or criminal activities.
Last month, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said more than 1,800 convicts, including Al Qaeda members, would be released from prisons for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday following it. Ramadan ended in mid-November.
Saleh had said those to be released included some who served at least two-thirds of their sentences or completed their terms but were unable to pay the imposed fines.
Yemen, the ancestral home of Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, is a tribal-dominated country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It long has been a haven for Islamic extremists and the scene of numerous terrorist attacks.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Yemen's government joined the American-led war on terror and cracked down on militants operating within its borders.