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Sudan says deal signed with families of victims of USS Cole bombing

By AFP - Feb 13,2020 - Last updated at Feb 13,2020

KHARTOUM — Sudan said on Thursday it has signed a deal with the families of the victims of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, meeting a key condition for removing the country from Washington's terrorism blacklist.

The United States has set certain benchmarks that Sudan has to meet to be removed from its state sponsor of terrorism list, which also includes North Korea, Iran and Syria.

For months now, Sudanese and US officials have been in talks to remove the northeast African country from the blacklist. Compensating the victims of the USS Cole attack had been a key condition imposed by the US administration.

Sudan's justice ministry said a deal had been signed with the families of the victims of the attack, but it did not specify the amount of compensation agreed.

"As part of the transitional government's effort to remove Sudan from the terrorism list, a deal has been signed on February 7 with the families of the victims of the USS Cole incident," the ministry said in a statement.

"The deal clearly specifies that the government of Sudan was not responsible for the incident or any such terrorist incident and it is doing this deal only to... fulfil the condition put by the American administration to remove Sudan from its terrorism list."

On October 12, 2000, a rubber boat loaded with explosives blew up as it rounded the bow of the guided-missile destroyer, which had just pulled into Aden, Yemen, for a refuelling stop.

Seventeen American sailors were killed as well as the two perpetrators of the attack claimed by Al Qaeda, in an early success for the terror group and its founder Osama Bin Laden.


Blacklisting impacting economy 


A US court then ruled that Sudan, where the two bombers were trained, was responsible for the attack — a claim Khartoum always denied.

In 2012, a Washington judge ordered Sudan to pay more than $300 million to the victims' families. Other judges went on to order certain banks to make Sudanese assets available to start paying the sum.

But in March 2019, the US Supreme Court overturned on procedural grounds a lower court's ruling ordering Sudan to pay damages to the families of the victims.

Sudan's justice ministry did not specify the structure or any other details of the deal signed last week.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the USS Cole issue was one element in the terror designation but said that no decision has been made.

"We've been looking at whether to lift the designation of state-sponsored terror on Sudan for quite some time," Pompeo told reporters as he flew to the Munich Security Conference.

In a recent meeting, "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".

In 1993, Washington listed Sudan on its terrorism blacklist for its alleged support of terror groups. Bin Laden used to reside in Sudan from 1992 to 1996.

Sudan's new authorities have made it a key priority to get the country removed from the blacklist.

Officials in Khartoum say the country's economic revival has been stunted primarily due to its blacklisting, which deters global investors.

In October 2017, the US lifted its decades old trade embargo imposed on Sudan, but kept the country on the terrorism blacklist.

Sudanese businessmen and officials complain that the blacklisting has restrained international banking and transfer of funds, in turn severely impacting the country's economy.

Sudan's chronic economic trouble — led by high inflation as well as shortages of fuel and foreign currency — was the main trigger for nationwide protests against now ousted leader Omar Al Bashir.

Bashir was removed by the army in a palace coup last April, but the country's economic woes persist as the new authorities battle to rein in inflation and unemployment.

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