Sudan has been given the green light to appeal an award of damages for the bombing of the Navy ship USS Cole that killed and injured U.S. sailors almost two decades ago.
The damages, totaling $314.7 million, were awarded as compensation for 17 American sailors killed and 39 injured in the bombing of the Navy destroyer in a Yemeni port by a band of al Qaeda fighters said to be financed by Sudan.
According to reports at the time, the suicide bombers attacked the Navy ship which was in port in Aden, Yemen, for refueling. The explosion ripped a hole in the hull of the ship.
Fifteen injured sailors and three spouses sued Sudan saying it had provided funding, training and additional support to al Qaeda for the bombing. They sought assets in Sudanese banks to compensate for the injuries and deaths.
Sudan denied any links with al-Qaeda and made several unsuccessful attempts to have the case dismissed.
After a ruling in 2015 awarding the victims $314.7 million, two years later a New York federal judge denied a bid by the injured sailors to seize funds from a Sudanese bank, saying the bank is no longer owned by the country and calling their argument that U.S. sanctions still allow for its funds to be seized “unorthodox.”
Six men were charged by Yemen in the Cole bombing. One of them, Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, was held at Guantanamo Bay prison. Pentagon transcripts of a military tribunal are released in which al-Nashiri claimed his confession was obtained by torture, specifically water boarding. Al-Nashiri has been imprisoned in Guantanamo since 2006.
The damages were levied by default because Sudan did not appear before a lower court to defend itself against allegations that it provided support to the Islamist militants. Sudan contends that it had not been properly notified of the lawsuit, in violation of U.S. and international law.
U.S.-Sudanese relations have warmed since 2015 under Obama when it decided that the existing sanctions regime had been unsuccessful. The State Department now welcomes Sudan’s “recent efforts to increase counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.”