Saudi arrests mastermind of 1996 Khobar tower bombings

Published August 26th, 2015 - 04:34 GMT

The mastermind of the 1996 bombing in eastern Saudi Arabia that killed and injured hundreds of US service personnel has been arrested, Saudi security officials told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday. 

Ahmed Al-Mughassil has been arrested in the Lebanese capital Beirut and repatriated to his home country, Saudi Arabia, after 19 years on the run.

“The operation was carried out in coordination with the concerned bodies,” the Saudi security source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, without elaborating on what role the Lebanese authorities had in Mughassil’s arrest and subsequent transferal.

Mughassil is believed to be the leader of the Iran-allied Hezbollah Al-Hejaz group who had been indicted by a US court for the 1996 bombing that killed 19 US airmen and injured around 500 others at the Khobar Towers apartment complex near a US military base in eastern Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi security, according to the source, received confirmed information that Mughassil, 48, was living in disguise in Beirut.

For 19 years, Saudi authorities hunted down Mughassil who is also wanted by the FBI who had offered a five million US dollar reward for his capture.

While Saudi Arabia did not officially accuse Iran of involvement, the US accused the Quds Force, an elite paramilitary unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, of orchestrating the bombing. Tehran has long denied any links with the suspects and it was reported that Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the incumbent Hassan Rouhani—who was a member of the Supreme National Security Council at the time of the attack—had made behind-the-scene-efforts to contain the crisis between Tehran and Riyadh.

Mughassil, together with three Khobar Towers bombing suspects, is on the FBI’s top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists list.

By Mirza Al-Khuwaylidi

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