- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

RICHMOND, VA. (AP) - Nearly nine years after 17 sailors were killed in a terrorist attack on the USS Cole, a judge has ordered New York banks to release $13.4 million in frozen Sudanese accounts to family members of the victims.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood issued the order last week, ending a six-year quest by 59 spouses, parents and children of the victims to hold the Sudanese government accountable for the deaths.

The families claimed in a lawsuit filed in Norfolk, Va., that Sudan provided support, including money and training, that allowed al-Qaida suicide bombers to attack the Navy destroyer at a refueling stop at the Yemen port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000. The suicide bombers were in a small boat and tore a gaping 40-foot hole in the destroyer.

Sudan didn’t fight the case during a trial, but the government has refused to pay the families. The families’ lawyers were unable to get the money from Sudanese bank accounts because the U.S. government had frozen the assets.

Wood’s order frees the funds under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, which requires the release of blocked assets to satisfy a judgment against a “terrorist party.” The State Department has designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, Wood said.

“It’s about time something was done,” said John Clodfelter of Mechanicsville, Va., whose son Kenneth was killed. “It’s taken so much more time than we thought it should take.”

Clodfelter said his son’s widow and 10-year-old son will receive money. The only parents who will be paid are those whose deceased children were unmarried and didn’t have any children.

A spokesman for the Sudanese Embassy in Washington said Tuesday the country had nothing to do with the attack.

“It didn’t take place on Sudan soil or water, and there is no Sudanese involvement in it,” said spokesman Seif Yasin. “There’s no proof Sudan provided any financial support for anyone involved.”

The families originally sought more than $100 million, but a judge ordered Sudan to pay only for lost wages and earnings potential, not for pain and suffering.

Andrew C. Hall, attorney for the families, did not immediately return a telephone message.

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