For Immediate Release
FBI National Press Office
Nearly five years
after a powerful truck bomb ripped through a U.S. military
housing complex in Saudi Arabia killing 19 Americans
and wounding 372 terrorism charges have been brought
against 13 members of the pro-Iran Saudi Hizballah, or "Party
of God." Another, as yet unidentified, person who is
linked to the Lebanese Hizballah has also been charged in
the indictment returned today by a Federal Grand Jury in
Alexandria, Virginia, nine of the fourteen are charged with
46 separate criminal counts including: conspiracy to kill
Americans and employees of the United States, to use weapons
of mass destruction, and to destroy U.S. property; bombing;
and murder. The five others are each charged with five conspiracy
counts. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy was driven
by the motive to expel Americans from the Kingdom of Saudi
all counts are: Ahmed Al-Mughassil, also known as Abu Omran;
Ali Al-Houri; Hani Al-Sayegh; Ibrahim Al-Yacoub; Abdel Karim
Al-Nasser; Mustafa Al-Qassab; Abdallah Al-Jarash; Hussein
Al-Mughis; and the unidentified Lebanese, listed as "John
Doe." The remaining five -- Sa'ed Al-Bahar, Saleh Ramadan,
Ali Al-Marhoun, Mustafa Al-Mu'alem and Fadel Al-Alawe --
are named in the five conspriracy counts.
John Ashcroft said: "For five years, the Department
of Justice and the FBI have worked to develop the evidence
necessary to bring charges in this country against those
responsible for this terrible crime. Today, with the return
of this indictment, we have reached an important milestone
in that ongoing investigation."
Louis J. Freeh said the indictment represents "a major
step toward making sure that those responsible are brought
to justice, as well as a testament to the value and necessity
of international law enforcement cooperation to counter
the dangers in today's world." Freeh expressed his
appreciation to the government of Saudi Arabia for "invaluable
assistance and a genuine commitment to solving the case,
despite the inevitable challenges, sensitivities, and occasional
setbacks that are inherent in complex international investigations."
Freeh, who has met with and briefed victim family members
and survivors since the attack, complimented them for their
patience and perseverance. "These five years have been
particularly trying for the survivors and for the families.
I hope that this development, and our commitment to continue
pursuing this investigation, strengthens their confidence
in the criminal justice system and aids in the healing process,"
At about 10:00
p.m. on June 25, 1996, a tanker truck loaded with at least
5,000 pounds of plastic explosives was driven into the parking
lot in front of the Khobar Towers residential complex in
Dhahran. Moments later a massive explosion sheared the face
off of Building 131, an eight-story structure which housed
about 100 U.S. Air Force personnel. Although rooftop sentries
were immediately suspicious of the truck -- parked some
80 feet from the building -- and attempted an evacuation,
few escaped. Comparable to 20,000 pounds of TNT, the bomb
was estimated to be larger than the one that destroyed the
federal building in Oklahoma City a year before, and more
than twice as powerful as the 1983 bomb used at the Marine
barracks in Beirut.
handed down by the grand jury gives a detailed chronology
of events leading up to the deadly attack and provides a
snapshot of the Saudi Hizballah and its relationship with
then-members of the Iranian government. No Iranian is named
or charged in the indictment.
the indictment, the Saudi Hizballah, or Hizballah Al-Hijaz,
was one of a number of related Hizballah terrorist organizations
operating in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain,
among other places. The Saudi Hizballah was a terrorist
organization which promoted violence against Americans and
U.S. property in Saudi Arabia. Since the group was outlawed
in Saudi Arabia, its members frequently met in neighboring
countries such as Lebanon, Syria or Iran.
traces the carefully organized bomb plot back to on or about
1993 when Al-Mughassil, under Saudi Hizballah leader Al-Nasser,
was head of the "military wing" of the Saudi Hizballah.
It is alleged that, at that time, Al-Mughassil was in charge
of directing terrorist attacks against Americans and American
interests in Saudi Arabia. Al-Mughassil instructed defendants
Al-Qassab, Al-Yacoub and Al-Houri, later joined by Al-Sayegh,
to begin surveillance of Americans in Saudi Arabia. This
operation produced reports that were provided to Al-Mughassil,
Al-Nasser and officials in Iran. Al-Mughassil carefully
reviewed the surveillance reports, according to the indictment.
During the same
time, Al-Jarash and Al-Marhoun conducted surveillance of
other sites where Americans lived, worked or frequented,
including the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and a fish market nearby,
according to the charges. Later, in early 1994, Al-Qassab
began surveillance of locations in the Eastern Province
of Saudi Arabia, an area which includes Khobar. Reports
of this operation were provided to Al-Nasser and to Iranian
officials, the indictment alleges.
In the Fall of
1994, defendants Al-Marhoun, Ramadan and Al-Mu'alem began
watching American sites in Eastern Saudi Arabia at Al-Mughassil's
direction, and Al-Bahar looked at other sites at the direction
of an Iranian military officer, according to the indictment.
It was during this time that Al-Marhoun, Ramadan and Al-Mu'alem
determined Khobar Towers to be an important American military
location and began an effort in the region to locate a storage
site for explosives.
In 1995, an Iranian
military officer directed Al-Bahar and Al-Sayegh to conduct
surveillance on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia for sites
of possible future attacks against Americans. During this
time, Al-Mughassil told Al-Marhoun during a live-fire practice
drill in Lebanon that he enjoyed close ties to Iranian officials
who were providing financial support to the party, according
to the indictment. Al-Mughassil then gave Al-Marhoun $2,000
in U.S. currency to support continued efforts to identify
alleges that it was in or about June 1995 that Al-Marhoun,
Al-Ramadan and Al-Mu'alem began regular surveillance of
Khobar Towers, at the direction of Al-Mughassil. By late
Fall 1995, the three learned that Al-Mughassil had decided
that Hizballah would attack Khobar Towers with a tanker
truck loaded with explosives. According to the indictment,
the attack would serve Iran by driving the Americans from
the Gulf region.
In early 1996,
Al-Mughassil instructed Al-Marhoun to find places to hide
explosives, and in February Ramadan drove a car loaded with
explosives from Beirut, Lebanon, to the city of Qatif in
the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, the indictment alleges.
In March 1996, Al-Alawe attempted to drive another explosives-filled
car from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, but he was searched at
the Saudi border and arrested. Follow-up Saudi investigation
led to the arrests of Al-Marhoun, Al-Mu'alem and Ramadan
in April 1996.
to the indictment, Al-Mughassil continued planning for the
Khobar attack and sought replacements for those arrested.
Joining Al-Mughis, Al-Mughassil formed a team consisting
of Al-Jarash, Al-Houri, Al-Sayegh and a Lebanese Hizballah
member. During this time in 1996, Al-Houri and Al-Mughis
began to hide explosives around the Khobar area.
In early June
1996, according to the indictment, a tanker truck was purchased
by the conspirators, who then spent two weeks converting
the truck into a truck bomb. The group consisted of Al-Mughassil,
Al-Houri, Al-Sayegh, Al-Qassab and John Doe, assisted by
Al-Mughis and Al-Jarash. The indictment alleges that Al-Mughassil
discussed a plan at this time to bomb the U.S. consulate
at nearby Dhahran.
During the first half of June 1996, Al-Mughassil, Al-Houri,
Al-Yacoub, Al-Sayegh, Al-Qassab and Saudi Hizballah leader
Al-Nasser discussed the planned bombing. Al-Nasser confirmed
that Al-Mughassil was in charge of the Khobar attack, according
to the indictment.
details the attack as follows: On the evening of June 25,
1996, Al-Mughassil, Al-Houri, Al-Sayegh, al-Qassab, Al-Jarash
and al-Mughis finalized plans for the attack that night.
Shortly before 10 p.m, Al-Sayegh drove a Datsun, with Al-Jarash
as his passenger, as a scout vehicle into the public parking
lot in the front of Khobar Towers building # 131. Behind
them was the getaway car, a white Chevrolet Caprice that
Al-Mughis had borrowed. When the Datsun signaled that all
was clear by blinking its lights, the bomb truck, driven
by Al-Mughassil and with Al-Houri as a passenger, entered
the lot and backed up against a fence in front of building
# 131. Al-Mughassil and Al-Houri then exited the truck and
entered the back seat of the Caprice for the getaway, driving
away followed by the Datsun. In minutes the blast devastated
the north side of the building.
the terrorist attack, the leaders fled the Khobar area and
Saudi Arabia using fake passports. Only Al-Jarash and Al-Mughis
remained behind. Al-Sayegh reached Canada in August 1996
where he was arrested by Canadian authorities seven months
later. In May 1997, Al-Sayegh requested to meet with American
investigators and denied knowledge of the Khobar attack.
He also falsely described an estrangement between the Saudi
Hizballah and elements of the Iranian government. He was
later removed to the United States based on a promise to
cooperate. Instead, he reneged on the promise and unsuccessfully
sought political asylum in the U.S. The indictment charges
that the defendants first conspired to kill Americans since
at least 1988, when several of the group joined the Saudi
Hizballah, and later, in the Khobar attack, carried out
the murders of American military personnel who were serving
in their official capacity in Saudi Arabia.
deadly attack, FBI Director Freeh pledged the full support
of the FBI to work closely with Saudi authorities in the
investigation. FBI investigators and forensic experts were
on the scene in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.
Freeh first traveled to Dhahran on July 2, 1996, to meet
with senior Saudi officials, visit the crime scene and be
briefed by Saudi and American investigators. That trip was
followed by several others over the next four years, at
key junctures in the case and as events dictated.
From the investigation
came the establishment of a permanent FBI liaison office
in Riyadh, at the invitation of the Saudi government and
with the full support of then-Ambassador Wyche Fowler and
the State Department. The office is the first in the Gulf
region, and today serves as a critically important law enforcement
and counterterrorism partner to Saudi Arabia and the other
In addition to
the Saudis, Freeh also thanked the following: Canadian authorities
for their "valuable assistance at key points in the
investigation"; The Department of Defense, the Joint
Chiefs and the U.S. Air Force for "support at every
step of the way"; Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Fowler, whose "unswerving commitment to seeing progress
made played a critical role in today's development";
and the Department of State, whose support is "essential
to achieving international investigative successes like
this case, the bombings of the embassies in East Africa
and many others."
Freeh noted the
efforts of prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia:
"Acting United States Attorney Kenneth Melson and Assistant
U.S. Attorneys James Comey and John Davis made a tremendous
contribution with their hard work and dedicated efforts
in organizing this complex case. They represent the highest
ideals of public service."
"The indictment should underscore the commitment of
my office and the FBI to pursuing the case until all guilty
parties are punished for the horrific attack on our servicemen
at Khobar Towers. We look forward to working with our Saudi
partners and law enforcement around the world to apprehend
the fugitives and to bring all these defendants to justice."
thanked the "dedicated men and women of the FBI who
have been working on the case -- in Saudi Arabia, Washington,
D.C. and elsewhere -- with dedication and a single purpose
of seeing justice served."
| 2001 Press Releases | FBI
Home Page |