His Lackawanna relatives and the FBI are trying to find out if Jaber Elbaneh was among the 23 prisoners who escaped from a prison in Yemen last week.
A story in the Yemen Times on Tuesday listed a man named Gaber Al-Bana'a as one of the 23 "suspected al-Qaida members" who escaped from the Political Security Prison in Yemen on Friday.
A Buffalo FBI spokesman and a family member said they are trying to find out whether the person mentioned in the Yemen newspaper is actually Elbaneh, 38, a former Lackawanna resident who faces criminal charges in connection with the "Lackawanna Six" case.
Elbaneh's name has been spelled several different ways in the Middle Eastern media, and the Buffalo FBI office is trying to determine whether the latest account refers to Elbaneh, FBI spokesman Paul M. Moskal said. "We're making inquiries and trying to get some answers," Moskal said.
Elbaneh's uncle, Lackawanna businessman Mohammed T. Albanna, said the family has also been trying to find out, but he said accurate information has been difficult to obtain.
Escaping through an underground tunnel, 23 men suspected of ties to al-Qaida fled from the prison in the capital city of Sana. One of the known escapees is Jamal al-Badawi, who was convicted in 2004 of plotting an October 2000 terrorist bombing that killed 17 military personnel aboard the USS Cole.
The U.S. State Department posted a $5 million reward for Elbaneh's capture in September 2003. His family believes he has been in custody in Yemen for more than two years, but Albanna said Tuesday that he does not know what prison he was being held in.
Efforts to contact the Yemen Embassy in Washington and the Interpol worldwide police agency in Lyons, France, were unsuccessful late Tuesday. Interpol has asked police agencies in 184 countries to help track down the escapees.