A federal US judge has ordered Iran to pay $104.7 million to victims of a 1996 truck bombing in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 US military personnel. The Washington judge, Chief Judge Beryl Howell, ruled against the Islamic Republic and the country’s Revolutionary Guards. No representative from Tehran was present during the case and Iran’s UN representative has not responded to requests for comment over the verdict.
Howell said that 15 service members, who were at the complex at the time of the attack, could recover “for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress”. She further found 24 survivors entitled to claim damages for “emotional distress from seeing how the bombing affected their loved ones”.
The bombing took place over 20 years ago, on 25 June 1996, in the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The building housed military personnel from the United States and other allied forces. It killed dozens of people, including 19 American service members, and injured many more.
US authorities have long alleged that the bombing was carried out by a Saudi wing of the militant group Hezbollah, which receives support from Iran and Syria. Iran, however, has denied any connection to the bombing of the Khobar Towers and has rejected US allegations of its involvement as “unfounded”.
It was alleged in 2015 that Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Mughassil, the main suspect in the bombing, had been arrested in Lebanon and sent to Saudi Arabia for interrogation.
It’s not clear however when and how the plaintiffs will be able to collect the money. Seizing Iranian assets in the US may have been an option but it appears to be a non-starter. The family of the victims were previously awarded $254.4 million by another US federal judge in December 2006 but compensation had not been collected.
The two countries are bitter rivals which makes rulings like this nothing but a symbolic gesture for the victims. The Iranians, however, view judgement such as this as another example of US attempts to vilify the Islamic Republic.