Al-Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia hit by a bombing in 1996. (Reuters)

By Track Persia

January 2, 2018

On September 10, 2018, a federal judge in Washington ordered Iran to pay $104.7 million, in compensation to those affected by the 1996 al- Khobar Towers attack in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. military personnel and more than 400 people of various nationalities were also injured in the blast.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell entered a default judgment against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

When the truck bomb went off outside the towers apartment complex on June 25, 1996, the accommodation was being used as quarters for Western troops deployed to the country.

It was thought at the beginning that al-Qaeda was behind the suicide operation, but the investigation showed that a Shiite militant group called Hezbollah Al-Hejaz, which is backed by Iran and traditionally operated in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, was behind the attack.

After 22 years of the attack, the U.S court revealed that the attack was carried out by 15 members of Hezbollah Al-Hejaz operated under the order of Ahmed Ibrahim al-Mughsal, who was the mastermind of the attack, and the commander of the military wing of the Saudi Shiite Hezbollah Al-Hejaz.

According to federal investigations, the cell members spent three months searching for potential targets in Riyadh. In 1994, the Khobar Towers had been identified as a target. The cell had succeeded in smuggling 20,000 pounds of explosives from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia via Jordan. The explosives had been stored in a suitable place in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in 1996, one of Hezbollah Al-Hejaz commanders had visited Beirut. The visited had been intended to meet Ahmed al-Mughsal and to discuss the final steps of the operation. Ahmed al-Mughsal, in turn, regularly had briefed the Iranians on the operation.

According to the investigations, Iran was aiming through this operation to drive the United States out of the Gulf.

A member of the cell had been chosen to carry out the suicide operation. He had been trained by involving him in a mock operation and given the map of the Khobar Towers. He had received direct instructions from Ahmed al-Mughsal.

Al-Mughsal had been captured in 2015 in the Lebanese capital Beirut and transferred to Riyadh.

Before his transfer to Riyadh, al-Mughsal had lived in Iran for 19 years and had used the country as a base for plotting terrorist attacks on Saudi Arabia. He was supported by the Iranian regime, which opened for him the camps of the IRGC.

In the same case, thirteen Hezbollah militants were indicted in June 2001 in a federal court in Virginia over their roles in the attack, which sheared off the face of an eight-storey apartment building and left a 35-foot deep and 85-foot wide crater in the complex parking lot.

In December 2006, another federal judge in Washington ordered Iran to pay $254.4 million to family members of 17 Americans who died in the attack.

Iran was designated by the U.S. Department of State as a state sponsor of terrorism in January 1984.

In 2015, the U.S. government established the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund to provide compensation to certain U.S. persons who were victims in acts of state-sponsored terrorism.

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.