US receives $335M from Sudan for victims of terrorist attacks
Washington (CNN)Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday that the United States had received the $335 million settlement from Sudan that will be paid out to victims and families of individuals impacted by the 1998 bombings at the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and the murder of a USAID employee in Khartoum.
"Achieving compensation for these victims has been a top priority for the Department of State. We hope this aids them in finding some resolution for the terrible tragedies that occurred," Blinken said.
The multi-million dollar settlement was a key component in lifting Sudan's decades-old state sponsor of terrorism designation, which came with a series of restrictions including a ban on defense exports and sales and restrictions on US foreign assistance.
The Trump administration removed that designation after the $335M was transferred to an escrow account and after Sudan announced it had agreed to normalize relations with Israel, both in October 2020.
The money was held in that escrow account until Sudan's sovereign immunities -- which prevent it from being sued in federal court -- were restored.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that the money was released from escrow on March 11.
"The Department of State received the $335 million in compensation agreed upon for victims of certain terrorism attacks ... from Sudan via the release of funds from an escrow account," they said.
Blinken said Wednesday that the State Department last week "transmitted to Congress the Secretary's certification restoring Sudan's sovereign immunities pursuant to the Sudan Claims Resolution Act enacted last December."
"We appreciate Sudan's constructive efforts over the past two years to work with us to resolve these long-outstanding claims," Blinken said. "With this challenging process behind us, U.S.-Sudan relations can start a new chapter."
"We look forward to expanding our bilateral relationship and to continuing our support for the efforts of the civilian-led transitional government to deliver freedom, peace, and justice to the Sudanese people," he said.
More than 200 people were killed and thousands were injured in 1998 when twin al Qaeda bombings rocked the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Sudan, under the leadership of ousted President Omar al-Bashir, sheltered Osama bin Laden and was found to have assisted the al Qaeda operatives.
"Families of the Americans who were killed in the US Embassy bombings are thankful to the Biden-Harris Administration for following up on the Trump administration's signing of the US-Sudan Bilateral agreement and their efforts to finalize implementation," said Edith Bartley, who lost her father and brother in the Kenya bombing and serves as a spokesperson for some of the families of Americans who were also killed in the embassy bombings.
Bartley said they "are especially thankful to a bipartisan Congressional coalition that was committed to get the legislation passed last year and which was spearheaded by Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and supported by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and House and Senate Leadership."
She told CNN that she is hopeful that the developments will lead Sudan to be a key partner for the US in that region of the world.
USAID official John Granville was ambushed and assassinated in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on New Year's Day 2008.
In October 2000, 17 US Navy sailors were killed and 39 were injured when the USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers while in Yemen for refueling. Sudan's government denied its involvement in the attack. In 2014, a US court concluded that Sudan had provided al Qaeda with aid that led to the attack.
The State Department spokesperson said the $335 million from Sudan is "in addition to $72.5 million in an already paid private settlement with a number of USS COLE victims."
"This concludes a multi-year process to negotiate a bilateral claims agreement and secure the enactment of legislation that provides for the restoration of Sudan's immunities," they said.
The Sudan Claims Resolution Act was among the provisions of the omnibus bill signed by former President Donald Trump in late December. It restored Sudan's sovereign immunity with an exception for litigation from 9/11 victims and families. Protection for the pending suit was a key sticking point in negotiations, as 9/11 families had feared that earlier iterations of the deal could imperil their case against the African nation.
The act also resolved another major point of contention over the earlier settlement -- unequal compensation for the victims the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Under the $335M settlement between the US and Sudan, those who were US citizens at the time of the bombings would receive more than those who became citizens after the fact and foreign national embassy employees. The legislation signed into law as part of the omnibus included $150M in additional funds to allow for equitable compensation between birthright and naturalized citizens.