UPDATED: Judge: Sudan Responsible for USS Cole Bombing

Norfolk, Va. (AP) -- A federal judge said Wednesday that Sudan is responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole but he needs more time to determine damages for the families of the 17 sailors killed when terrorists bombed the ship in 2000.

"There is substantial evidence in this case presented by the expert testimony that the government of Sudan induced the particular bombing of the Cole by virtue of prior actions of the government of Sudan," U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar said.

The civil trial started Tuesday in which the victims' relatives tried to prove the terrorist attack couldn't have happened without Sudan's support.

Sudan sought unsuccessfully to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that too much time had passed between the bombing and the filing of the lawsuit in 2004. Lawyers representing the Sudanese government declined to comment after Wednesday's ruling.

Doumar said that he would issue a written opinion later to fully explain his ruling. He requested additional paperwork, including tax returns of the sailors killed, to determine the appropriate damages.

"Words can't express the loss my family has gone through," Shalala Swenchonis-Wood, whose brother died, testified Wednesday. "It's not financial, it's not material, it's always the things, the little things you don't see."

Four experts on terrorism, including R. James Woolsey, CIA director from early 1993 to early 1995, also testified in person or by deposition Tuesday to support the families' position that al-Qaida needed the African nation's help to carry out the attack.

"It would not have been as easy - it might have been possible - but it would not have been as easy," Woolsey said in a videotaped deposition, without Sudan providing economic support, places to train and false documents.

The experts testified that Sudan has given safe haven to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network since 1991 - long before Yemeni operatives blasted a 40-foot-hole in the side of the Cole in Yemen's port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000.

They cited testimony from other trials, a declassified Canadian intelligence report, U.S. State Department reports and their own studies as they testified that Sudan let terrorist training camps operate within its borders and gave al-Qaida members diplomatic passports so they could travel without scrutiny and diplomatic pouches to ship explosives and weapons without being searched.

The United States has listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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