Terrorism and Peacekeeping: New Security Challenges

By Volker C. Franke | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Obligations of Leadership: The
Khobar Towers Bombing and
Its Aftermath

ELIOT A. COHEN


PART I

A Bomb Explodes

June 25, 1996 was another hot, oppressively humid night in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. At the Khobar Towers apartment complex located near the sprawling King Abdul Aziz Air Base air conditioners hummed. A block of squat high-rise apartments comprising some fourteen city blocks, bordered on the north by a car park and near a Saudi residential and shopping neighborhood, Khobar housed approximately three thousand military personnel of the 4404th Air Wing (Provisional), together with French, British, and Saudi military counterparts. The Americans occupied thirty-three of one hundred eighty buildings in Khobar Towers, concentrated at the northern end of the sprawling complex. Engaged in the prolonged and fatiguing task of maintaining air patrols over southern Iraq (operation SOUTHERN WATCH), the airmen worked mainly at the King Abdul Aziz Air Base a few miles west of Khobar Towers. Tonight, those off duty were either resting or sleeping in cooled rooms. On top of the Khobar Towers housing complex, however, shortly before 10:00 PM an alert Air Force security police staff sergeant on guard duty, Alfredo Guerrero, noticed a fuel truck drive into the parking lot and stop opposite the concrete barriers on the northern perimeter, which were located eighty feet from Building 131. Its driver jumped out of the truck and into an accompanying passenger car. Instantly, Guerrero called his command center, after which he and two other airmen rushed downstairs, alerting occupants to evacuate the building. Minutes later the truck exploded.1

-99-

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