Sudan‘s transitional government has agreed to compensate the families of 17 United States Navy sailors killed in an al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole warship in Yemen 20 years ago, state news agency SUNA said on Thursday.
The settlement is the latest among steps that Khartoum has taken to end Sudan’s international pariah status and get the African country removed from a list of state sponsors of “terrorism”.
The 17 sailors were killed, and dozens of others injured, in the attack on October 12, 2000, when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the US Navy-guided missile destroyer as it was refuelling in the southern Yemeni port of Aden.
The SUNA report said the settlement had been signed on February 7, but did not mention the amount paid in compensation.
A source with knowledge of the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency that Sudan has agreed to settle the case for $30m.
But Sudan’s interim government spokesman, Faisal Saleh, told The Associated Press that the figure could not be disclosed because the Sudanese government is still in negotiations to reach a similar settlement with families of victims of the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
More than 200 people were killed in the attacks and more than 1,000 were wounded.
The initial figures on the table had been in the billions, Saleh said, but Sudan’s interim government had “inherited an empty treasury”.
“We expect the United States and the world to understand and to be supportive instead of imposing more obstacles,” Saleh said.
The families of the US sailors had sued Sudan under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which bars suits against foreign countries except those designated by the US as sponsors of “terrorism”, as Sudan has been designated since 1993.
In 2012, a federal judge issued a judgement of nearly $315m against Sudan. But in March last year, the US Supreme Court overturned that ruling on the grounds that Khartoum had not been properly notified of the lawsuit.
The announcement came two days after Khartoum and rebel groups agreed that all those wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and genocide in the Darfur region should appear before the tribunal.
The list includes Sudan’s longtime leader Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from power last year following a popular uprising.
For Sudan, being removed from the US “terror” list will end the country’s economic isolation and allow it to attract much-need loans from international financial institutions.