U.S. Charges Saudi for 2002 Oil Tanker Bombing

Published Feb 6, 2014 12:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Pentagon has decided to proceed with a war crimes case against a Saudi man accused of planning the suicide bombing of an oil tanker off Yemen that took place two months after he was already imprisoned at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, reports The Miami Herald.

On October 6, 2002, the Limburg was carrying 397,000 barrels of crude oil from Iran to Malaysia, and was in the Gulf of Aden off Yemen to pick up another load of oil. It was registered under a French-flag and had been chartered by the Malaysian petrol firm, PETRONAS.

While it was some distance offshore, an explosives-laden dinghy rammed the starboard side of the tanker and detonated. The vessel caught on fire and approximately 90,000 barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Aden. Although Yemeni officials initially claimed that the explosion was caused by an accident, later investigations found traces of TNT on the damaged ship. One crew member was killed, and 12 other crew members were injured. The damage to the tanker was around USD$45 million.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack on the Jehad.net website, which has since been shut down. Osama bin Laden issued a statement, which read: “By exploding the oil tanker in Yemen, the holy warriors hit the umbilical cord and lifeline of the crusader community, reminding the enemy of the heavy cost of blood and the gravity of losses they will pay as a price for their continued aggression on our community and looting of our wealth.”

The Defense Department now announced that the Convening Authority, Office of Military Commissions, referred charges to a military commission in the case of "United States v. Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza Al Darbi." 

The referred charges allege, among other things, that al Darbi planned, aided and abetted in a course of conduct that resulted in the suicide bombing of the civilian oil tanker M/V LIMBURG. Based on these allegations and others outlined in the charge sheet, al Darbi is charged with attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, hazarding a vessel, terrorism, attempted hazarding a vessel, and attempted terrorism. 

The Convening Authority referred the charges to a non-capital military commission.  In accordance with military commission rules and procedures, the chief trial judge of the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary will assign a military judge to the case, and al Darbi will be arraigned at Guantanamo within 30 days of service of the referred charges upon him.

The charges are only allegations that the accused has committed offenses punishable under the Military Commissions Act, and the accused is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Photo Credit: http://cimsec.org/