Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Bombing of Khobar Towers

Bin Laden Sends a "Signal"

According to the indictment, on the night of June 25, 1996, Al-Mughassil and several fellow Hizballah members launched their plot.  Al-Mughassil himself drove the sewage truck to the parking lot across from Building 131 with Ali Al-Houri in the cab with him.  Hani Al-Sayegh drove the Datsun scout car with Abdallah Al-Jarash in the passenger seat.  Hussein Al-Mughis drove the white Chevrolet getaway car.

Hani Al-Sayegh
Hani Al-Sayegh

After the attack, all of terrorists except two fled the country.  The Saudi Security Service eventually arrested six of them. Al-Sayegh made it to Canada and was arrested by Canadian authorities in the winter of 1997.  Curiously, he asked to meet with American investigators and denied any involvement in the Khobar Towers attack.  He apparently tried to spread disinformation, telling the Americans that there had been a rift in the relationship between Saudi Hizballah and sympathizers in the Iranian government.  He promised to cooperate with the investigation and was brought to the United States, where he attempted to seek political asylum in violation of the terms of his agreement. 

Despite Al-Sayegh's efforts to hamper the investigation, charges were brought against the group in 2001.  At least half of the accused are still at large, some living in Iran.  Their case has yet to be tried.

The defendants named in the indictment are Al-Mughassil, Al-Nasser, Al-Houri, Al-Sayegh, Al-Jarash, Al-Mughis, Ibrahim Al-Yacoub, Mustafa Al-Qassab, Sa'ed Al-Bahar, Ali Al-Marhoun, Saleh Ramadan, Mustafa Al-Mu'alem, Fadel Al-Alawe, and John Doe, an unidentified Lebanese man.  Al-Mughassil, Al-Nasser, Al-Houri, and Al-Yacoub are currently on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list.

According to the New York Times, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might have played a "supporting role" in the Khobar Towers tragedy.  He weighed in on the subject in a 1997 interview with a London-based, Arabic-language newspaper:  "We had thought that the Riyadh and Al Khobar blasts were a sufficient signal to sensible U.S. decision makers to avert a real battle between the Islamic nation and U.S. forces, but it seems they did not understand the signal."

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