Awful Terrorism: Khobar Towers bombing

We all are aware of the Mumbai Attack, 9/11, and few more terrorist attacks.. But there are many tragic acts of terrorism that have been largely lost to history. So here is one among them. The Khobar Towers Bombing which took place in Saudi Arabia.

Building#131 after the bombing.
Building#131 after the bombing.

Thousands of US troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia at the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War to enforce a no-fly zone over Iraq. A large American base was established in Dhahran, with the troops’ quarters located in several high-rise apartment buildings called the Khobar Towers. In the early morning hours on June 25, 1996, a tanker truck containing 11,000 kilograms (25,000 lbs) of explosives parked in a vacant lot next to one of the high-rises, Building 131, and two men jumped out, escaping in a waiting getaway car. Staff Sergeant Alfredo Guerrero was a sentry on the roof of Building 131 and, realizing what was happening, went floor by floor alerting his fellow airmen. He made it down three floors before the bomb exploded, shredding the facade off the eight-story building. The blast killed 19 US airmen and wounded over 300 others, though it is believed the toll would have been much higher if not for Sergeant Guerrero’s actions. The Saudi government ultimately arrested six men in connection with the plot, though several suspects still remain at large. A team of FBI agents sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate were stonewalled by the Saudi government when it came to interviewing the suspects, and the investigation eventually stalled. The FBI Director at the time, Louis Freeh, later stated that the evidence the agency had been able to assemble pointed to Iran as the most likely sponsor of the attack with the goal of driving US forces from the region.

Victims In all, 19 airmen from the U.S. Air Force were killed, including:

  1. Captain Christopher Adams
  2. Captain Leland Haun
  3. Master Sergeant Michael G. Heiser
  4. Master Sergeant Kendall K. Kitson
  5. Technical Sergeant Daniel B. Cafourek
  6. Technical Sergeant Patrick P. Fennig
  7. Technical Sergeant Thanh V. Nguyen
  8. Staff Sergeant Ronald King
  9. Staff Sergeant Kevin Johnson
  10. Sergeant Millard D. Campbell
  11. Senior Airman Earl R. Cartrette Jr
  12. Senior Airman Jeremy A. Taylor
  13. Airman 1st Class Christopher Lester
  14. Airman 1st Class Brent E. Marthaler
  15. Airman 1st Class Brian W. McVeigh
  16. Airman 1st Class Peter W. Morgera
  17. Airman 1st Class Joseph E. Rimkus
  18. Airman 1st Class Justin Wood
  19. Airman 1st Class Joshua E. Woody

Indictment against Iran The three-year investigation led the FBI to conclude that Iranians were involved in the attack. On June 21, 2001, an indictment was issued in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia charging the following people with murder, conspiracy, and other charges related to the bombing:

  1. Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Mughassil
  2. Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser
  3. Ali Saed Bin Ali El-Hoorie
  4. Ibrahim Salih Mohammed Al-Yacoub
  5. Nine other Saudis
  6. One Lebanese man listed as “John Doe.”

The remaining five were Sa’ed Al-Bahar, Saleh Ramadan, Ali Al-Marhoun, Mustafa Al-Mu’alem and Fadel Al-Alawe.

America’s Response The US has indicted 14 people in connection with the Khobar Towers bombing.In addition, this attack brought about a swirl of controversy. Two separate Air Force reports found the the general in charge had done all he could to keep the event from happening. However, the Defense Departments report found that General Schwailer could have done more to protect his troops. The blame for the incidents was placed on his shoulders for failing to take the proper actions to protect his troops. According to several reports he had taken numerous steps to insure the safety of his troops and ironically the step the military has taken to insure this does not happen again is the one thing that was out of his control, removal of the vulnerable housing out of a heavily populated residential area.

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