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Iran must pay $2.6 billion for attack on U.S. Marines, judge rules

  • Story Highlights
  • 1983 bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killed 241 Americans
  • Judge on $2.6B ruling: "The cost of state-sponsored terrorism just went up"
  • "This is a sense of victory, of winning a battle," survivor told AP
  • Hezbollah is blamed in the attack; Iran has denied responsibility, AP reports
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A judge Friday ordered Iran to pay more than $2.6 billion to victims and their families in the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 241 Americans.

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Relatives of victims of the 1983 Marine barracks attack in Lebanon react after Friday's ruling in Washington.

"The cost of state-sponsored terrorism just went up," said U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in his ruling for a group of 800 lawsuits related to the Beirut suicide attack.

It was unclear how lawyers would collect from Iran, which the Bush administration has labeled "a rogue nation." Tehran has denied responsibility for the attack, according to The Associated Press. It did not respond to the six-year-old lawsuit, AP reported.

"This is a sense of victory, of winning a battle," said Paul Rivers, who was a 20-year-old enlisted Marine on the second floor of the barracks when it exploded, according to AP. "When we win the war is when we collect, when we make them pay for what they did."

Lamberth ruled in May 2003 that Iran was responsible for the attack, which also wounded 26 people. He concluded that the suicide truck bombing was carried out by the militant group Hezbollah with the approval and funding of Iran's senior government officials.

Hezbollah is blamed for anti-Western and anti-Israeli terrorist acts dating from the early 1980s and is on the U.S. State Department's official list of terrorist organizations.

The American troops were deployed in Beirut as a peacekeeping force during Lebanon's civil war. Within six months of the attack, most of the American troops had pulled out of Lebanon.

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"These individuals, whose hearts and souls were forever broken on October 23, 1983, have waited patiently for nearly a quarter of a century for justice to be done and to be made whole again," Lamberth said in court Friday.

Capt. Vincent Smith was a Marine killed in the attack. His sister, Lynn Smith Derbyshire, described him as "a person who often played practical jokes and loved to laugh."

"Time does not heal wounds," Derbyshire said. "Whoever said that was an idiot. Only hope heals wounds. If we can hold terrorists accountable, I believe we will have hope for the future."

In his ruling, Judge Lamberth said, "Though this court can neither bring back the husbands, sons, fathers and brothers who were lost in this heinous display of violence, nor undo the tragic events of that day, the law offers a meager attempt to make the surviving family members whole through seeking monetary damages against those who perpetrated this heinous attack."

Lamberth said he hopes the judgment will "sound an alarm to Iran that their unlawful attacks on our citizens will not be tolerated." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ebonne Ruffins contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

All About HezbollahU.S. Marines ActivitiesLebanon

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