Sudanese government reaches settlement deal with USS Cole victims

Experts examine the damaged hull of the USS Cole at the Yemeni port of Aden after an Al-Qaeda attack that killed 17 sailors in this Oct. 15, 2000 file photo. (AP)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Sudanese government reaches settlement deal with USS Cole victims

  • The settlement is the latest step from Khartoum to end its international pariah status
  • In the USS Cole attack, two men in a boat detonated explosives alongside the US destroyer as it was refueling in Aden

CAIRO: Sudan’s transitional government said Thursday it has reached a settlement with families of the victims of the 2000 attack on USS Cole in Yemen, in a bid to have the African country taken off the US terrorism list and improve relations with the West.
The settlement is the latest step from Khartoum to end its international pariah status. Earlier this week, Sudan’s provisional rulers said they had agreed to hand over longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face trial on charges of war crimes and genocide during the fighting in the western Darfur region.
At the time of the Oct. 12, 2000 attack in the Yemeni port of Aden that killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others, Sudan was accused of providing support to Al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
Today, Sudan’s interim authorities are desperate to have its listing by the US as a state sponsor of terror lifted, in order to receive an injection of badly needed funds from international lending institutions. Sudan’s justice ministry said that the agreement was signed with the victims’ families last Friday in Washington but its statement gave no details of the settlement.
There was no immediate comment from Washington.
Sudan’s information minister and interim government spokesman, Faisal Saleh, told The Associated Press over the phone from Khartoum that Justice Minister Nasr-Eddin Abdul-Bari had traveled last week to Washington to sign the deal, which included compensations for both those wounded and the families of those killed in the attack.
He said the figures 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.
Saleh said, however, that the American side is free to disclose the amount if it wishes to do so.
The initial figures on the table had been in the billions, he added, but Sudan’s interim government had “inherited an empty treasury.” He said he hoped the international community would be sympathetic to the country’s situation.
“We expect the United States and the world to understand and to be supportive instead of imposing more obstacles,” he said.
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 in order to rebuild the economy after the popular uprising last year that toppled Al-Bashir and installed the joint civilian-military sovereign council.
The new Sudanese rulers say they were not responsible for the attack on USS Cole and that they had negotiated the deal out of their “keenness to resolve old terror claims inherited from the ousted regime” of Al-Bashir.
In the USS Cole attack, two men in a boat detonated explosives alongside the US destroyer as it was refueling in Aden. The victims’ families, along with the wounded sailors, had sued the Sudanese government in US courts demanding compensations.
In 2012, a federal judge issued a judgment of nearly $315 million against Sudan but last March, the US Supreme Court overturned that ruling on the grounds that Sudan had not been properly notified of the lawsuit.


Turkish military visit raises fears of Syrian operation

Updated 46 min 45 sec ago

Turkish military visit raises fears of Syrian operation

  • The Chief of General Staff accompanied the high-profile visit
  • Turkey has conducted three cross-border operations in Syria against Daesh and the Kurdish YPG militia since 2016

ANKARA: A further visit by Turkey’s Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, and senior military officials to troops along the Syrian border, along with plans to hold meetings with commanders, have raised fears of a new Turkish military operation.
The Chief of General Staff, Gen. Yasar Guler, accompanied the high-profile visit, while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also attended some meetings via telephone.
Turkey has conducted three cross-border operations in Syria against Daesh and the Kurdish YPG militia since 2016.
Navar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said an imminent operation is unlikely, due to the increasing cost of a military move.
“Logistically speaking, it doesn’t make sense to launch another operation in an area that has this many complexities, including a Russian presence, Daesh cells and Syrian regime operations. Even if they win, it will bear significant costs for troops on the ground because of security problems in northwestern Afrin and northwestern Idlib provinces,” he told Arab News.
However, Saban also said the visit is unlikely to be random.
“It is for coordination on the ground to manage clashes with different actors. But it wouldn’t trigger a new operation in the short term,” he said.
On Friday, US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces announced a new campaign to fight remnants of Daesh across the border with Iraq following a recent increase in attacks.
Last month, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) blamed Daesh for exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to “regroup and inflict violence on the population.”
“Intermittent clashes and ground-based strikes between pro-government forces and armed groups continue to be reported in western Aleppo and southern Idlib,” the OHCHR said.
The resumption of violence in Idlib has sparked concern in Ankara about a possible wave of immigration toward the Turkish border, where Turkey has deployed troops.
On Friday, one Turkish soldier was killed and two were wounded following an attack on an armored ambulance in Idlib. The region has seen an increase in attacks since December.
On May 27, a Turkish soldier was killed in an explosion on a highway in Idlib.
Kyle Orton, a UK-based Syria researcher, said that another Turkish operation into Syria remains unlikely for now, as previous cross-border operations already gave the country a military foothold.
“The American presence in Syria has always been the major roadblock to Turkey dismantling the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) statelet, and the Americans want a withdrawal from Syria, quite possibly before the election in November,” he told Arab News.
Orton said that Turkey can get what it wants by maintaining its position, as there are potential political advantages in fighting Daesh in the vacuum left by the US.
“If the Americans are still in Syria in, say, a year, then Ankara might reconsider its view,” he added.