Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Bombing of Khobar Towers

Bloody Handprints

Twenty minutes after the explosion, the compound's clinic was overflowing.  Doctors and nurses, many of whom were injured themselves, cared for the wounded wherever they could.  Bed space ran out quickly, and many patients had to be treated outside on the sidewalks next to buildings where IV drips could be hung.  Ambulances rushed those with the most serious injuries to local Saudi hospitals.  By midnight, Saudi medical personnel had arrived at Khobar Towers to assist the military doctors in picking out broken glass from skin and stitching cuts.

Clean up of the wrekage
Clean up of the wrekage

Amidst the chaos it was impossible to determine how many had been injured and how many killed.  By 3:00 a.m., initial estimates reported 16 dead.  At dawn, two more bodies were found in the rubble outside Building 131.  By mid-morning, the nineteenth victim was discovered deep in the debris.

Wreckage: back of Khobar Towers after attack
Wreckage: back of Khobar Towers after attack

In the light of day, the survivors began to assess the damage.  The outer wall of Building 131 had been sheared off, giving it the appearance of a giant open-backed dollhouse, as the New York Times described it.  Bloody handprints on the exposed hallway walls marked the progress of the evacuees.  Twisted pipes and tangled wires dangled in the hot desert breeze.  A lone mattress hung precariously from an upper floor.  What kept the building from collapsing was its unconventional design of prefabricated concrete rooms bolted together.

Close-up of the damage
Close-up of the damage

An 85-foot crater marked the spot where the truck bomb went off.  Ballistics experts would later determine that the blast was the equivalent of 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of TNT, far greater than the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building.

Crater caused by the bomb
Crater caused by the bomb

Reports of the tragedy quickly traveled around the world.  Americans were stunned and outraged.  In Washington, President Bill Clinton declared, "We will pursue this.  Those who did this must not go unpunished."

Former President Clinton
Former President Clinton

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