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Dr Mary Ngunyi-Muiruri, a former Nairobi US Embassy employee breaks down at the 1998 bombing memorial plaque. A US court had ordered Sudan to pay punitive damages for the bombing. [File]
The US Supreme Court has ordered Sudan to pay Sh460 billion in damages to the victims of terrorist bomb attacks in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

However, it is not clear whether those killed or injured in the simultaneous attacks on August 7, 1998 at US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam will be among those compensated. The attacks killed 224 people and injured thousands.

In a suit against Sudan, which was accused of aiding the Al Qaeda terror group to carry out the bombings, judges of the US top court unanimously agreed to set aside an appeal court decision that had shielded Sudan from paying punitive damages.

The case stemmed from a district court in Washington, which awarded the victims $10.2 billion  (Sh1.1 trillion) in damages and $4.3 billion (Sh459.2 billion) in punitive damages. This was after the court found that Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden received support and protection from Sudan’s intelligence and military to carry out the two bombings.

Crucial leads

Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011 - three years after the bombings - by US Navy Seals in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. 

After the embassy bombings, nearly 600 families of victims who died and those who were maimed pursued Sudan before US courts.

The cases started in 2011.

In the case before District Court Judge John D Bates, in which Sudan did not participate, the judge found that the terror attack operatives and their leader Bin laden got crucial leads from Sudan.

Justice Bates found that Bin Laden and his group acquired passports to aid their travel from Sudan, then under President Omar al Bashir.

The judge found that Sudan’s intelligence service allowed and helped the attackers to roam freely between Sudan and Kenya.

“Sudan harboured and provided sanctuary to terrorists and their operational and logistical supply network,” Bates ruled before slapping Sudan with $14.5 billion (Sh1.5 trillion) in damages.

Sudan moved to the Court of Appeal, which overturned the lower court’s ruling, saying punitive damages were not permissible under the law and that these were not open to foreign nationals seeking justice in the US.

However, Supreme Court Judge Neil M Gorsuch, who read the judgement on behalf of his colleagues, found that the Appeals Court erred, and that amendments by Congress allowed litigants to seek punitive damages.

“Having now decided that punitive damages are permissible for federal claims ... it follows that the court of appeals must also reconsider its decision concerning the availability of punitive damages," he said.

Sudan now risks losing its assets in the US or any other collaborating country if it defaults on paying up. These can be sold off to recover the money.

US Supreme Court 1998 bomb
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