How do you get off a “terrorist” list? It seems that hard cash helps.
Take Sudan. Its ministry of justice has just announced that it’s finalised a February deal with the families of the 17 US sailors killed in the suicide attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbour in October 2000. The dead Americans left 11 children behind them and so the reported $70m (£59m) settlement will care for them too. The relatives claimed that Sudan, under its then war criminal president Omar al-Bashir, had provided support to al-Qaeda, which claimed the attack.
Who knows? The US listed Sudan as a “state sponsor of terror” in 1993 – the same year I first met Osama bin Laden in the Sudanese village of Almatig, surrounded by his unarmed warriors and Sudan’s very well-armed security cops. But he was expelled to Afghanistan three years later. That’s four years before two al-Qaeda suicide bombers in an explosives-heavy fibreglass boat smashed into the hull of the four-year-old Aegis-class guided missile destroyer Cole as it lay moored, refuelling, off Aden harbour. Omar al-Bashir took power in Khartoum in 1989.
Now that he has been overthrown, Sudan’s transitional government desperately needs debt relief and international funding. The ministry of justice was quite frank about that this week: “Removing Sudan’s name from this list is necessary to remove the stigma of terrorism off the people of Sudan and to reintegrate Sudan back in the international community.”