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19 Dead, 80 Hospitalized in Terror Attack in Saudi

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 1996 – Nineteen American service members were killed and hundreds injured by a terrorist attack on a military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Terrorists exploded what officials estimate was a 5,000-pound bomb planted in a fuel truck near the Khobar Towers -- a complex of 10-story buildings housing foreign military service members including Americans near the Abdul Aziz Air Base. One building was destroyed, another heavily damaged, said Pentagon officials.

Air Force service members in the complex are assigned to the 4404th Provisional Wing; most were in country on temporary duty. They are members of the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; 388th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah; 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.; 27th Fighter Wing, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. and the 314th Air Wing, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The Army's 6th Battalion 52nd Air Defense Artillery and elements of the 54th Signal Battalion were in the area, but there were no Army casualties, officials said.

Air Force families with concerns can call (800) 253-9276 for information.

U.S. service members at the base support Operation Southern Watch, which enforces the no-fly, no-drive zone south of the 32nd parallel in Iraq.

The bomb exploded at about 10 p.m. Saudi time. An Air Force security police officer observed the truck drive up to a security barrier about 35 meters from the building. The officer immediately notified U.S. and Saudi security personnel and started evacuation of the building.

However, as a Saudi patrol approached, two men leaped out of the truck and sped off in a car. The bomb exploded within four minutes of the truck being spotted, leaving little time for evacuation, DoD officials said. The explosion left a crater 85 feet long and 35 feet deep. A senior DoD official said that without the security in place, the casualty count would have been much higher.

President Clinton condemned the attack and said the murderers who committed the act must be punished. Clinton, after consulting with Saudi officials, sent an FBI team to the country to aid the investigation. He extended condolences to the families and friends of those killed or hurt in the blast and promised, "We will pursue this. America takes care of our own. Those who did it must not go unpunished."

Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili said he was saddened by the loss of life and numerous injuries. Shalikashvili had just returned from visiting the area and had met many of the service members living at Khobar Towers.

"Far from home, they were performing the mission our country had asked of them with professionalism and dedication," he said. "They were extraordinary ambassadors of peace, and I was proud of what they were doing for America."

This was the second terrorist act directed against U.S. service members based in Saudi Arabia in the past year. In November, terrorists struck in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, killing four Americans and two Indians. Saudi officials beheaded four men charged with the attack last month.

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