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Judge's ruling: $315M to Cole attack victims

In a separate ruling, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth awarded $2.16 billion to victims of the 1983 attack on the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut

Mar. 31, 2012 - 09:59AM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 31, 2012 - 09:59AM  |  
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WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday awarded more than $300 million to victims of the 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole, which was bombed while it was docked in a Yemeni harbor.

It was one of two awards made Friday by the judge to victims of terror attacks. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth also awarded $2.16 billion to victims of the 1983 suicide truck-bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, his third award in two weeks to plaintiffs who had sued Iran over the attack.

Lamberth awarded $315 million from Sudan to sailors who were injured in the Oct. 11, 2000, attack on the destroyer, which was being refueled in the Port of Aden, and to some of their spouses. The attack killed 17 sailors, injured 42 others and nearly sank Cole.

"Sudan's support of al-Qaida has a ‘reasonable connection' " to damages suffered by the sailors, Lamberth wrote. A message left at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington was not immediately returned.

The Beirut money will be difficult to collect, but the victims hope to obtain it from Iranian assets frozen in the United States.

Lamberth awarded the money to estates of dead Marines, and to injured Marines and their relatives. On Wednesday, he awarded $44.6 million to two service members who were injured and their family members. And last week, he awarded $33.3 million to family members of two injured service members.

Iran has been blamed for supporting the militant group Hezbollah, which carried out the bombing.

In Friday's ruling, Lamberth awarded $487 million in compensatory damages and $1.67 billion in punitive damages to about 180 victims and estates.

A lawyer for the victims, Thomas Fortune Fay, said that he has attached nearly $2 billion in Iranian assets in a Citibank account in New York, which Iran's central bank is fighting. Including Friday's ruling, Lambert has awarded more than $7 billion to victims of the 1983 attack from Iran, and Fay has represented nearly all of them. He said that to date, none of his clients have received money from the awards. Fay said that the victims have agreed to share whatever they get proportionately.

In a 2009 opinion, Lamberth urged the president and Congress to consider a terrorism claims settlement commission that would give federal compensation to the victims and suggest a settlement plan with Iran in case the two nations ever resume relations. There has been no action on that.

A message left with the Iranian Embassy to the United Nations was not returned Friday.

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