Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Bombing of Khobar Towers

Warnings and Precautions

On November 13, 1995, seven months before the Khobar Towers bombing, a car bomb exploded in the courtyard of the Saudi Arabia National Guard's Office of the Program Manager in Riyadh, killing seven people, including five Americans.  The blast, which was estimated to be the equivalent of 200 pounds of TNT, proved that Saudi Arabia was not immune from terrorist attacks.

A spate of terrorist bombings in Bahrain in the months that followed raised further concerns.  Explosions at post offices, hotels, restaurants, and shops occurred from December 1995 through March 1996.  In one of the restaurant attacks, seven people were killed, and though no Americans were injured in the attacks in Bahrain, American military officials saw these incidents as precursors for further terrorist violence.  "My concern was that they were starting to choose places where Americans might frequent," General Schwailer said in Air Force Magazine Online.

In the wake of the Riyadh attack, the Air Force, in conjunction with the CIA, assessed security needs at American facilities in the area.  On December 21, 1995, a report on Khobar Towers listed 39 suggestions for improving security at the complex.  An Air Force officer in charge of base security also recommended that the perimeter be extended to 400 feet to ensure the safety of the residents in the event of a car-bomb explosion similar to the one that had occurred in Riyadh. 

The report stated that flying glass causes most of the injuries when an office building is attacked, so it recommended that all windows be covered with Mylar, a transparent protective tape, which is commonly used in American military buildings around the world.

The report concluded that the apartments that faced the perimeter were particularly vulnerable to attack.  Servicemen at the Khobar Towers complex were customarily assigned individual rooms.  However, these rooms were large enough to accommodate two people, and the report recommended that residents in the perimeter apartments double up with servicemen in the interior apartments.

Inspectors also felt that the foliage along the perimeter fence was too high and dense.  The report recommended that the foliage be cut back so that anyone on the perimeter could be clearly seen from inside the complex.

It also recommended an increase in the number of guard posts and more stringent identification checks for people entering the complex.

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