Sudan says it won’t admit responsibility for the terror attack–rather, it just wants to be taken off the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The interim government of Sudan said it has reached a settlement with families of a terror attack on the USS Cole.
The USS Cole, writes The New York Times, was a Navy destroyer. It was attacked by suicide bombers in 2000, who rode an explosives-filled skiff into the Cole as it refueled in-port in Yemen. Al-Qaeda later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The explosion left 17 sailors dead and another 39 injured.
The sudden agreement, reached after years of litigation, is motivated by the Sudanese government’s desire to remove itself from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.
In a statement, Sudan explicitly distanced itself from the bombing, maintaining that the country “is not responsible for this act or any other acts of terrorism.” It also said that it’s offering unspecified compensation to the victims of the bombing “only in order to meet the prerequisites set by the American Administration for removing the name of Sudan from the list of state sponsors of international terrorism, so that relations with the United States of America and the rest of the world cold be normalized.”
According to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the announcement is well-timed. He suggested the settlement may offer sufficient incentive for the Trump administration to consider striking Sudan from the United States’ terror list.
“The Sudanese reminded me that they would love to get off that list, and we always measure twice and cut once before we remove someone from a list like that,” Pompeo said.
Sudan, adds The New York Times, is actively trying to reform its image on the world stage. The Saharan nation is currently undergoing a massive political transformation: only last year did it heave off its former president, Omar al-Bashir, who served as the country’s dictator for some 30 years.
“The Americans believe Sudan’s support for terror was carried out through its security apparatus,” said Faisal Saleh, Sudan’s information minister and interim government spokesperson. “So they want to be assured that there has been a radical change.”
Since al-Bashir’s ouster, Sudan is being governed by an interim ruling council, comprised of civilian officials and military officers. The council is hoping to reconnect Sudan with global trade. Among the council’s first priorities is getting off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, which it has been on since 1993. Its inclusion on the list has deterred tourism, international banks and foreign investment.
But in 2017, the Trump administration lifted some sanctions on Sudan, praising its government for combating terrorism and improving its humanitarian indices.
While neither Sudan nor the United States has disclosed the settlement amount, The Associated Press spoke to Adam Hall, an attorney for the victims’ families. He said the agreement is expected to provide $70 million, to be split among the families of the 17 dead sailors as well as 15 of the injured.
Hall said he’s been pursuing the case for more than 15 years.
“Sudan was finally of the view that it was willing to resolve these cases,” he said. “There is a huge difference between getting a judgment you may never collect and actually receiving a substantial amount of money […] The fact that we are actually collecting just makes me so happy for the families.”