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Sudan and US near deal on paying victims of terror attacks: Report

Sudan has agreed in principle to pay $335m to victims of al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies and naval vessel, Foreign Policy reports
PM Abdalla Hamdok has been pushing to restore ties with Washington
PM Abdalla Hamdok has been pushing to restore ties with Washington (MEE/File photo)

Sudan has agreed to pay compensation to the victims of attacks in which it was found to be culpable, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

The preliminary deal with the US would pave the way for Khartoum to be removed from Washington's State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) list - a major step in Sudan's efforts to reintegrate into the international community after last year's uprising toppled longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. 

Citing congressional aides and US officials, Foreign Policy reported on Tuesday that Sudan had agreed to pay $335m to the victims of the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on the USS Cole, a guided missile destroyer, in 2000.

The attacks in Kenya and Tanzania killed more than 220 people, including US citizens and locals who worked at the embassies. In 2000, two suicide bombers targeted the USS Cole, killing 17 service members.

All three attacks were claimed by al-Qaeda. Still, in subsequent years, Khartoum faced lawsuits in the US accusing the Sudanese government of harbouring the al-Qaeda operatives who planned and carried out the bombings. 

Sudan hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from 1992 to 1996.

The plaintiffs have obtained judgements awarding the victims tens of billions of dollars.

Khartoum also faces lawsuits over the 9/11 attacks, but those litigations will not be covered by the deal, according to the Foreign Policy report.

Pompeo's visit

Sudan's transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has been pushing to restore ties with Washington as it works to implement economic and social reforms. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Khartoum earlier this week, where he pushed for rapprochement between the new Sudanese leadership and Israel.

"Secretary Pompeo and Prime Minister Hamdok discussed continued US support for the civilian-led transitional government and noted that rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation remains a critical bilateral priority for both countries," the State Department said in a statement on Tuesday. 

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Hamdok has said that his government was tasked with focusing on a transition to democracy and does not have the mandate to normalise relations with Israel. Sudan is set to have its first post-uprising election in 2022. 

The settlement with the US administration over the terror lawsuits would be a first step for Khartoum to be removed from Washington's blacklist, which also includes Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Congress can grant Khartoum sovereign immunity from US lawsuits after the administration agrees to removing Sudan from the SST list.

Foreign Policy noted that the agreement on compensating victims was not final, but a lawyer representing Sudan told the magazine that a deal - in principle - had been reached. 

"Sudan's transitional government inherited these default judgments from the prior regime, which had not appeared in the US courts to defend Sudan against the claims against it," the lawyer said.