Testimony began Tuesday in the trial of a civil suit brought against Sudan by families of US military personnel killed in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. The families say Sudan has provided material support to al Qaeda since 1991, without which the attack that killed the US personnel would not have been possible. The 59 family members are seeking $105 million in damages. US District Judge Robert Doumar of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has nonetheless indicated that the federal Death on the High Seas Act will likely apply, limiting the maximum damages the families could receive to $35 million.
Last month, Doumar denied a motion by Sudan to dismiss the suit based on the complaint's failure to connect Sudan with al Qaeda. An earlier motion to dismiss because the statutory limitations had passed was also dismissed. During the trial phase, the plaintiffs will try to prove that Sudan provided the terrorists with explosives, locations for training camps, and the cover of diplomatic pouches to transport materials. They will also allege that Sudan's New York consulate facilitated al Qaeda's 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Because the United States has listed Sudan as a sponsor of terrorism since 1993, Sudan cannot claim sovereign immunity.