Sudan agreed to compensate families of sailors killed in an al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole warship 20 years ago, state news agency SUNA said, part of government efforts to remove the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The report said the settlement was signed on February 7. It did not give the amount paid, but a source with knowledge of the deal speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sudan agreed to settle for $30 million.
Seventeen sailors were killed and dozens more injured in the attack on October 12, 2000, when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the guided missile destroyer refuelling in the southern Yemeni port Aden.
Khartoum agreed to settle “only for the purpose of fulfilling the condition set by the U. administration to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism”, SUNA said, citing the justice ministry.
Being designated as a state sponsor of terrorism makes Sudan ineligible for debt relief and financing from lenders such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Removal from the list potentially opens the door for foreign investment.
“The government of Sudan points out the settlement agreement explicitly affirmed government was not responsible for this incident or any terrorist act,” the justice ministry said in its statement.
The announcement comes two days after Khartoum and rebel groups agreed all sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes and genocide in Darfur region should appear before the tribunal. The list includes ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
The US sailors’ relatives sued Sudan under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which bars suits against foreign countries except those designated as a sponsor of terrorism, as Sudan has been since 1993.
Sudan did not defend the claims in court. In 2014, a trial judge found Sudan’s aid to al Qaeda “led to the murders” of the 17 Americans and awarded the families about $35 million, including $14 million in punitive damages.
Sudan then tried to void the judgment, arguing the lawsuit was not properly served, violating notification requirements under US and international law.