US and Sudan reach ‘common understanding’ over 1998 embassy bombings

By Joyce Karam | The National

Deal could pave way for Khartoum to be removed from US list of terrorism sponsors

The US and Sudan have reached a common understanding for an outline agreement to settle compensation claims over the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

“This final agreement will reflect Sudan’s agreement to pay. It would include compensation in connection with claims relating also to non-US nationals killed and injured in the embassy bombings,” said Tibor Nagy, US assistant secretary for African affairs.

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This week the US Supreme Court ruled that Sudan could not avoid punitive damages in lawsuits accusing it of complicity in the bombings, which that killed 224 people including 12 Americans.

This August 1998 file picture shows Kenyan residents looking at the US embassy days after the bomb blast on August 7, 1998. AFP, file  
This August 1998 file picture shows Kenyan residents looking at the US embassy days after the bomb blast on August 7, 1998. AFP, file  

The ruling reinstates about $826 million (Dh3.03 billion) out of a total $4.3bn in punitive damages, said Christopher Curran, a lawyer representing Sudan.

Mr Nagy did not mention a specific amount for compensation, saying those details were being worked out.

“We have discussed obviously numbers with the parties involved, but in no way can we make those public yet,” he said.

On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal quoted a Congressional source saying “the victims would receive more than $300m altogether”.

The deal could pave the way for the US to remove Sudan from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, allowing it to tap into international assistance and ease its dire economic situation.

The US added Sudan to the list in 1993 and then imposed a trade embargo to punish Khartoum for ties to extremist organisations and Iran, and for its role in the genocide in Darfur.

US court rulings have held Sudan partly responsible for the bombing of the Kenyan embassy and simultaneous attack on the US mission in Tanzania.

It is also liable for another Al Qaeda attack in 2000 on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Until shortly before the attacks, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was living in Sudan under the protection of then leader Omar Al Bashir.

Since a mass uprising against Al Bashir’s rule last year brought rapid change to the country, the new Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, has opened talks with the US to restore ties, appoint ambassadors and resolve the compensation claims.

Mr Hamdok said after a visit to the US in December that the court claims for damages had been negotiated down from billions of dollars to “hundreds of millions”.

“We are seeking an agreement that immunises the Sudanese state against any future court cases,” he said at the time.

But Sudan is struggling to provide its people with basic services and goods including medicine, bread and fuel.

Mr Hamdok is also trying to negotiate an end to long-running civil conflicts, remove the last vestiges of Al Bashir’s rule and stabilising the economy.

He also has to navigate a power-sharing deal with the military that should result in democratic elections.

This month, Sudan appointed its first ambassador to the US for almost a quarter of a century.

In December, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the two countries would exchange ambassadors.

The US ambassador would be nominated by President Donald Trump and must be confirmed by the US Senate.

Relations started improving in 2015 under then-president Barack Obama but are not fully normalised.

Mr Obama’s quiet engagement with Khartoum loosened some sanctions.

In 2017, the Trump administration lifted a 20-year trade embargo on Sudan, and the CIA opened an office in the country.

Talks on normalising relations have been continuing since Mr Hamdok took office.

Read from source The National