U.S. Has Paid Out Millions to Terrorist Victims
The U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday that it has paid out more than $800 million from a Congressionally-created fund to compensate thousands of American victims of international terrorist acts dating back decades.
Among the 2,332 claimants were Americans held hostage by Iran from 1979 to 1981 as well as victims of the 1998 al-Qaida bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund was set up by Congress in 2015 and is administered by the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Congress authorized the department to deposit into the fund certain forfeiture proceeds, penalties and fines that come from civil and criminal matters involving prohibited transactions with state sponsors of terrorism.
Congress originally appropriated $1.025 billion for payments to victims, and recent Justice Department prosecutions and U.S. government enforcement actions have increased the total available for initial payments to more than $1.1 billion, the statement said.
“Through this program, we will continue to be resolute in our commitment to victims of state sponsored terrorism and aggressively search for illicit funds and assets to compensate them for their losses,” Acting Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Division Kenneth Blanco said in a statement.
US Strikes Syrian Air Base in Retaliation for Chemical Weapons Attack
The U.S. military fired a barrage of missiles into Syria early Friday in retaliation for a gruesome chemical weapons attack blamed on President Bashar al-Assad's forces that killed about 100 civilians. It is the first direct U.S. assault on Syrian government forces.
Russia, which is providing troops and air support to the Assad government, condemned the U.S. military action, calling it an "aggression against a sovereign state," and said they were suspending a memorandum of understanding for flight safety over Syria between Russia and the United States.
The 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched about 4:40 a.m. local time from the U.S. Navy destroyers USS Ross and USS Porter, which are deployed in the eastern Mediterranean. The missile launch lasted for three to four minutes, U.S. officials said.
U.S. forces are said to have targeted Shayrat Airfield in western Syria in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack American officials believe Syrian government aircraft launched on a rebel-held town with a nerve gas, possibly sarin.
A Navy official told VOA the airfield was targeted because it was most likely used to launch Tuesday's chemical strikes.
"We have a very high level of confidence that the attacks were carried out under aircraft under the direction of Bashar al-Assad's regime. We have very high confidence that the attacks involved the use of sarin nerve gas," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a security briefing to reporters late Thursday.
Tillerson said it was important to take action against the Syrian leader, because "as Assad has continued to use chemical weapons in these attacks with no response, with no response from the international community, he - in effect - is normalizing the use of chemical weapons, which may then be adopted by others."