Sudan seeks to end terror designation in USS Cole settlement
CAIRO >> Sudan’s transitional government said Thursday it has reached a settlement with families of the victims of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, a key step in having the U.S. remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism so it can rejoin the international community after years of exclusion.
Copies of the agreements obtained by The Associated Press show that $70 million will be split among families of 17 people killed, as well as 15 sailors who were injured and two of their spouses. In the agreement, Sudan makes no admission of wrongdoing.
The announcement was the latest in a series of efforts by the interim government to close the book on former President Omar al-Bashir, whose three decades of iron-fisted rule was brought to an end in popular protests last year.
Al-Bashir’s Islamist government promoted policies that ensured Sudan remained a pariah to much of the world. The International Criminal Court has accused him of genocide for his leadership of a scorched-earth campaign in the southern area of Darfur in response to a rebel insurgency there. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.
But in recent weeks the transitional government has sought to erase remnants of al-Bashir’s rule so it can heal the country’s battered economy. On Tuesday, it said it would hand him and other Sudanese officials over to the court in The Hague to be tried for war crimes.
Settling the case of the USS Cole would be another big move in Sudan’s rehabilitation.
On Oct. 12, 2000, two suicide bombers in a boat detonated their explosives alongside the USS Cole as the U.S. Navy destroyer was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. The blast killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others.
Sudan was accused of providing support to al-Qaida, which claimed responsibility for the attack. Under al-Bashir, the country was designated by Washington as a “state sponsor of terror” for hosting the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden, in the early years of his militant movement.
Experts in a speed boat examine the damaged hull of the USS Cole at the Yemeni port of Aden after an al-Qaida attack that killed 17sailors on Oct. 15, 2000.