SANAA, Oct 26 (Reuters) Yemen has commuted to house arrest the prison term of a mastermind of al Qaeda's 2000 bombing of a US Navy vessel after he surrendered to Yemeni authorities, his relatives said today.
Relatives told Reuters they were allowed to visit Jamal Badawi at his home in the southern port city of Aden while under police surveillance.
Details of the decision to release Badawi from prison were not known. But a Yemeni government official who asked not to be identified said the militant remained ''under close scrutiny and control of the security forces''. He declined to elaborate.
Badawi was one of the architects of the attack on the destroyer Cole that killed 17 US sailors in Aden port. He is wanted in the United States, which offered a 5 million dollar reward for information leading to his arrest after his escape from jail in 2006, according to the FBI Web site.
Badawi, whose death sentence had been commuted to 15 years in prison, is one of 23 inmates who escaped from a jail in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. He turned himself in about two weeks ago.
Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, joined the US-led war on terrorism after al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The poor country on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is viewed in the West as a haven for Islamist militants. It has witnessed several deadly attacks against Western targets and tourists including the bombing of a French oil tanker in 2002.
REUTERS SZ PM0117