Khobar Towers Bombing 1996


A terrorist truck bomb hit Khobar Towers on June 25, 1996, which claimed 19 Air Force servicemember lives and injured many more. Additionally, multiple buildings were severely damaged or destroyed during this blast, and an enormous crater formed outside its perimeter fence. Get the Best information about Khobar Towers.

This book details the heroic actions of airmen who performed their duties under nearly impossible conditions while raising questions about their degree of protection or lack thereof.


On June 25, 1996, a truck bomb exploded outside Dhahran’s American-occupied section of Khobar Towers, killing 19 American airmen and wounding hundreds of Saudi citizens and other nationals from third-world countries. Additionally, the property was either severely damaged or destroyed, and an enormous crater formed from this attack – constituting murder, terrorism, and war at once.

Building 131 was home to coalition troops supporting Operation Southern Watch – an attempt at creating a no-fly zone over southern Iraq. This tragic attack had devastating repercussions for all parties involved, particularly those close by at the time of the explosion.

After the attack, it became clear that multiple entities had conducted its orchestration. While Iran received much of the spotlight for their part, Hezbollah from Lebanon also played an active role. They provided a bomb maker who assembled a truck bomb and likely participated in its planning and preparations.

One of the key lessons from the bombing attack was that security measures can be highly effective if implemented effectively and consistently. Commanders at all levels embraced this lesson and promptly implemented increased security measures after it occurred, including conducting vulnerability assessments and initiating additional security precautions.

The Khobar Towers attack was the first instance where US citizens were attacked by truck bombing, causing widespread damage and casualties. It served as a wake-up call to the military establishment that security had not been adequately addressed at a place where thousands had lived and worked safely for years.

Soon after the attack, Secretary of Defense Perry officially visited the site, touring its crater and speaking to those affected. This visit prompted a comprehensive review of Air Force policies and procedures, emphasizing vulnerability assessment, ultimately leading to new training programs for security personnel and mandates requiring all deployed personnel to undergo regular vulnerability assessments.


The June 25 bombing heavily damaged or destroyed six high-rise buildings at the Khobar Towers housing complex while shattering windows in many other structures within and up to one mile away. The explosion created a large crater filled with seawater from the Persian Gulf within hours.

Since the bombing, the Air Force has taken steps to enhance security. As detailed by the Accountability Review Board report, confusion arose from bifurcated security responsibility in the Gulf Region, which compounded any existing security vulnerabilities leading up to and contributing to this incident. Working closely with Department of State officials, the DoD reexamined the structure and authority of the regional security command in response.

One major takeaway from the attack was that terrorists are unpredictable and capable of upending even well-laid plans, making defense measures necessary to protect civilians, military personnel, and equipment an ongoing task. The bombing served as a stark reminder that protecting civilians and military personnel requires continuous evaluation and adjustment as new information comes to light.

Critics were quick to condemn the wing commander for failing to implement all precautions recommended by the Pentagon, such as using Mylar coating on windows for reduced glass damage; this project was considered too expensive at the time.

Other criticisms focused on the 58th FS’s fire safety programs. The lack of an alarm system triggered allegations of neglect, yet an inspection visit and revamped evacuation plans by Schwalier in February assured him that their evacuation procedures met minimum standards.

Schwalier could not prevent the bombing, but his Air Force colleagues swiftly evacuated most victims following its impact. Yet many suffered terrible injuries, with limbs amputated or extensive burns covering large portions of their bodies.

The Air Force provided exceptional medical and psychological care for victims of the bombing, yet more could be done to ensure mass casualty procedures were in place when necessary. For instance, more should be involved in mass casualty responses, and emphasis placed on training such as first aid, bandaging/splinting techniques, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation should also be increased.


On June 25, 1996, terrorist bombers attacked the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, with an enormous truck bomb, inflicting immense destruction and leaving behind five Americans and many Saudis dead and numerous injuries – not to mention leaving behind a massive crater in its center.

It occurred amid rising concerns of homegrown terrorism in Saudi Arabia and as its leadership sought to pin attacks on Westerners on Shia militants linked to Iran. Following this attack, however, it became evident that al Qaeda had gained access to sophisticated bomb-making equipment, creating a far more significant problem.

At the time of the attack, approximately 2,000 Air Force personnel resided in a housing complex near the national oil company headquarters and King Abdulaziz Air Base for Operation Southern Watch, an ongoing patrol of southern Iraq’s no-fly zone declared after the Persian Gulf War.

Khobar Towers provides us with an essential military lesson. On its side, the US only exercises sovereignty within its own installations’ perimeter fences – security outside these boundaries is the responsibility of host nation forces such as the Royal Saudi Air Force at this compound.

The Downing Report and subsequent investigations demonstrated that Air Force commanders across its chain of command were adequately focused on security matters and vulnerability evaluations. From November 1995 to June 1996, more than 130 force protection enhancements were installed at Khobar

Towers at Khobar.

Key to the bombing was the size and impact of the truck used to carry explosives, which caused far greater destruction than smaller devices could have managed. Such an explosion would likely rip through complex walls and injure or kill hundreds or even thousands within.

Second, senior commanders must understand the importance of maintaining regular and open communications between themselves and relevant host nation officials to facilitate honest information exchanges on any serious problems that may arise – something which wasn’t always evident during the Khobar Towers bombing but should become routine.


The terrorist attack of June 25, 1996, was an act of war and murder perpetrated with extraordinary sophistication by terrorists. 19 Airmen were murdered while hundreds more were injured, both coalition forces assigned to King Abdulaziz Air Base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and residents living near the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia. Terrorists detonated a truck bomb containing approximately 20,000 pounds of TNT-equivalent explosives near American-occupied portions of Khobar Tower near Aramco headquarters – in total, 19 Airmen died while over 250 residents from Khobar Tower housing complex were injured or worse.

As a result of this tragic event and subsequent attacks in the Gulf Region, numerous lessons were drawn, and much effort went towards strengthening Force Protection measures at USAF installations – this process continues today.

Witness testimony from the Air Force Office of Inspector General (AFOSI), Central Intelligence Agency, and DoD personnel shows that USAF commanders recognized the need for enhanced security and acted accordingly. Furthermore, many tactical-level commanders implemented enhanced measures based on specific vulnerability assessments.

AFOSI and DoD personnel reported that commanders in the Gulf Region were aware of terrorist attacks against American facilities, yet many did not take steps recommended by AFOSI and DoD, such as coating windows with plastic to reduce glass shrapnel from an explosion.

The CSAF appointed me as the convening and disciplinary review authority for actions or omissions by Air Force personnel related to the Khobar Towers bombing. For my task, I read transcripts of over 200 interviews conducted by the Downing Task Force; conducted numerous additional interviews; reviewed extensive documentary evidence, such as historical staff documents; visited several locations (Khobar Towers); reviewed documentary evidence such as historical staff documents; conducted numerous additional interviews and visited locations (Khobar Towers among them); this Report addresses its findings while offering recommendations as to how Air Force should organize, train and equip forces deployed during contingency operations – in this Report both conclusions as well as suggestions as to how best protect force deployment operations in terms of organizational, training and equipping in terms of organizing, training and equipping forces deployed into contingency operations based on findings by Downing Task Force and making recommendations – to better protect troops deployed for contingency operations by their organization training and equipping needs while improving protection measures within conting operations such as that conducted by Downing Task Force as well as perform numerous additional interviews and reviewing transcripts conducted by Downing Task Force; conducted numerous other interviews myself; reviewed documentary evidence, including historical documents as well as visiting several locations including Khobar Towers itself subsequently used during conting operations by better protecting forces deployed into conting operations as per military doctrine, training and equipping to better protect troops deployed there were provided within it for such operations subsequently conducted against conting. This Report incorporates findings by the Air Force for protection.

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