Suspect in 1996 Khobar Towers bombing arrested

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One of the Khobar Towers Bombing Suspects Has Been Arrested


WASHINGTON (AP) — A man suspected in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence at a U.S. military base in Saudi Arabia has been captured, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

Ahmed al-Mughassil , described by the FBI in 2001 as the head of the military wing of Saudi Hezbollah, is suspected of leading the attack that killed 19 U.S. service personnel and wounded almost 500 people. The June 25, 1996, bombing at Khobar Towers, a military housing complex, was the deadliest such attack targeting U.S. forces since the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines' barracks in Beirut that killed 241 American servicemen.

Photos of the 1996 attack:

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1996 Khobar Towers bombing
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Suspect in 1996 Khobar Towers bombing arrested
275661 08: (FILE PHOTO) U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry tours the wreckage of Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia June 29, 1996 after a truck bomb exploded four days previously, killing 19 American servicemen residing there. A federal grand jury in Alexandria, VA indicted 13 Saudis and one Lebanese citizen in the bombing June 21, 2001. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)
395630 19: (UNDATED FILE PHOTO) Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Mughassil, a suspected terrorist, is shown in this photo released by the FBI October 10, 2001 in Washington, D.C. Al-Mughassil has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for the June 25, 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Dhahran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (Photo Courtesy of FBI/Getty Images)
395630 16: (UNDATED FILE PHOTO) Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser, a suspected terrorist, is shown in this photo released by the FBI October 10, 2001 in Washington, D.C. Al-Nasser has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for the June 25, 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Dhahran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (Photo Courtesy of FBI/Getty Images)
395630 15: (UNDATED FILE PHOTO) Ali Saed Bin Ali El-Hoorie, a suspected terrorist, is shown in this photo released by the FBI October 10, 2001 in Washington, D.C. El-Hoorie has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for the June 25, 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Dhahran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (Photo Courtesy of FBI/Getty Images)
275661 10: (FILE PHOTO) A bomb crater stands in front of the wreckage of Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia June 29, 1996 after a truck bomb exploded four days previously, killing 19 American servicemen residing there. A federal grand jury in Alexandria, VA indicted 13 Saudis and one Lebanese citizen in the bombing June 21, 2001. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)
390909 03: Attorney Genaral John Ashcroft announces the indictments of 13 Saudis and one Lebanese in connection with the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing that killed 19 American servicemen in Saudi Arabia June 21, 2001 at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETARY, UNITED STATES: US Airforce Airmen and guest salute while taps is played during the Fifth Anniversary Rememberance Ceremony to honor those who died in the Khobar Towers Terrorist Bombing at Arlington National Cemetery 25 June, 2001 in Arlington, Virginia. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, UNITED STATES: Family members of the 19 US Airforce Airmen killed weep during the Fifth Anniversary Rememberance Ceremony to honor those who died in the Khobar Towers Terrorist Bombing at Arlington National Cemetary 25 June, 2001 in Arlington, Virginia. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, UNITED STATES: FBI Director Louis Freeh (R) hugs Sandra Wetmore, a relative to one of the 19 Airmen honored during the Fifth Anniversary Rememberance Ceremony to honor those who died in the Khobar Towers Terrorist Bombing at Arlington National Cemetery 25 June, 2001 in Arlington, Virginia. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Saudi paper Asharq Alawsat, which first reported the development, said he was arrested in Beirut and transferred to Riyadh.

The Saudi Interior Ministry had no immediate comment. The U.S. official spoke on grounds of anonymity because this person was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

Al-Mughassil, also known as Abu Omran, is one of 13 people named in a 2001 indictment in Alexandria, Virginia, in connection with the bombing. Charges include murder of federal employees and bombing resulting in death. None of the 13 has yet been brought to court to face charges, according to court documents.

The lead prosecutor listed in court records from 2001 is James Comey, now the FBI director.

In the Khobar attack, militants parked a fuel trailer truck just outside the shallow perimeter of the apartment complex, 85 feet away from one of the eight-story buildings. The blast demolished one side of the building, leaving a massive crater.

The U.S. later moved its Air Force contingent to the Prince Sultan Air Base, a vast compound in a remote stretch of desert south of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

A U.S. federal grand jury indictment named 13 Saudis and one Lebanese man in connection with the bombing, saying they were part of the Saudi Hezbollah extremist group. That group was founded by members of the desert kingdom's Shiite minority who fled into exile in the 1980s to escape what they said was persecution by the kingdom's Sunni majority.

The 2001 indictment placed heavy blame on Iran for nurturing the attack but stopped short of mentioning any Iranians by name or linking them directly to Khobar. However, in 2006, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled the Iranian government financed the bombing, ordering it to pay $254 million to the attack's victims. Iran repeatedly has denied being involved.

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Associated Press Writers Matthew Barakat in McLean, Virginia, and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.


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