A federal judge on Tuesday found the governments of Iran and Sudan liable in the al-Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, awarding $75 million in damages to the family of one of 17 sailors killed in the October 2000 terrorist attack.
Other federal judges — in Norfolk two weeks ago and in Washington in 2012 — have ordered Sudan to pay $48 million and $315 million, respectively, to victims of the Oct. 12, 2000, attack or their survivors. But Tuesday’s ruling is the first to find Iran partly responsible for the incident, in which an explosive-laden boat struck the guided-missile destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, ruling in Washington, entered a default judgment in favor of four brothers and the mother of Kevin Shawn Rux, an electronic warfare technician first class who was killed in the attack.
Iran and Sudan did not respond to the civil suit, which was filed in 2010 and is one of the last lawsuits brought by Cole victims or victims’ survivors.
Since 2008, U.S. judges have awarded damages exceeding $20 billion in lawsuits against Iran alleging that country’s shadowy involvement in acts of state-sponsored terrorism carried out by al-Qaeda and other groups in the decade before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In a 50-page opinion, Contreras concluded that Iran and Sudan conspired at least as far back as 1991 to collaborate politically and militarily against the United States and Israel. He cited an April 2014 evidentiary hearing, U.S. intelligence reports, testimony in other cases and other information from expert witnesses.
“In the years leading up to the Cole bombing, Iran was directly involved in establishing Al-Qaeda’s Yemen network and supported training and logistics for Al-Qaeda in the Gulf region,” Contreras wrote, summarizing his finding of financial, logistical and other support provided by the two governments to al-Qaeda in the 1990s.
“Iran used Lebanese Hizballah . . . as its primary ‘facilitator’ for providing training and communications support” to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, the judge wrote.
U.S. courts have imposed judgments against Iran in cases brought by victims of the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, a 1995 Gaza bus bombing that killed American student Alisa Flatow and the 1998 al-Qaeda attacks against U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.