USS Cole Families to Receive Compensation from Sudan

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Richmond, VA—Some of the families of sailors killed in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole have been granted compensation in their relatives’ deaths, said a lawyer on Tuesday.

The families – 33 spouses, parents and children – have been battling in court for six years. They claimed that the Sudanese government is responsible for the attack, since it provided money and training to al-Qaeda suicide bombers.

A small boat containing the bombers approached the U.S. Navy destroyer during a refueling stop at a port in Yemen. When the bombs detonated, they ripped a 40-foot hole in the hull of the ship, killing 17 sailors in the process.

Sudan denies any culpability in the attack. Said spokesperson Seif Yasin, “It didn’t take place on Sudan soil or water, and there is no Sudanese involvement in it. There’s no proof that Sudan provided any financial support for anyone involved.”

Nevertheless, the country has been considered a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States since 1993, and a federal judge recently freed $13.4 million in funds from Sudanese accounts, under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. The money had been frozen in New York banks, until U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood’s order.

Sudan did not fight the case in trial, but has refused to pay the victims’ families.

Now, the relatives of the slain sailors can receive anywhere from $200,000 to $1.2 million, said their attorney, Andrew C. Hall. He also added that the families are now allowed to seek compensation for their pain and suffering, although they had previously only been eligible for lost-wage and earning potential compensation.

Under a new law passed by Congress last year, the families could receive another $50 million, said Hall.

Of the parents who sued Sudan for the loss of children, 26 were ruled ineligible by a Norfolk, VA judge in 2007. This is because those children had spouses and families of their own. These families, however, will be eligible for a portion of the $50 million, since all relatives can legally be considered to experience pain and suffering, whereas only dependents can suffer from loss of income.

Said Hall, “It’s been a long fight for these people, and hopefully this is the first step.”

 

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