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Iran must pay $2.65 billion to the family members of the 241 US servicemen killed in the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, a federal judge ruled Friday, calling it the largest-ever such judgment against another country.
Iran has been blamed for supporting the terrorist group Hizbullah, which carried out the suicide bombing in Beirut. It was the worst terrorist act against US targets until the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Hundreds of people crowded a federal courtroom to hear Friday's ruling. Parents have grown old since their children were killed. Siblings have grown into middle-age. Children have married and started families of their own.
"These individuals, whose hearts and souls were forever broken, waited patiently for nearly a quarter century for justice to be done," US District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said as families embraced.
The crowd, many of them weeping, stood and erupted into applause as Lamberth left the bench.
The ruling allows nearly 1,000 family members and estates to try to collect Iranian assets from various sources around the world.
"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. "When we win the war is when we collect, when we make them pay for what they did."
Iran has denied responsibility for the attack. The nation did not respond to the 6-year-old lawsuit and was represented only by an empty table.