Saudi official says countrymen responsible for Khobar Towers
19 U.S. service members died in the 1996 bombing
Cautious U.S. says investigation's not over
May 22, 1998
Web posted at: 7:43 p.m. EDT (2343 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is reacting with
caution to comments by Saudi Arabia's interior minister that
a deadly bombing attack on U.S. military personnel in 1996
was the work of Saudi nationals, not terrorists from other
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz was
quoted by a Kuwaiti newspaper as saying that the bombing of
the Khobar Towers housing complex took place by "Saudi hands"
and that "no foreign party had any role in it." The blast
killed 19 U.S. service members.
However, Nayef did not rule out the possibility that the
Saudi bombers could have links to terrorists in other
But a senior U.S. official told CNN that the U.S.
investigation into the Khobar bombing is still under way and
that there has been "no official contact with the Saudis on
U.S. law enforcement officials also told CNN that their
investigators have not been given access to all of the
evidence in the case, which is being investigated principally
by Saudi authorities.
Those U.S. officials say they are particularly concerned that
they have not been allowed access to suspects the Saudis have
There have been previous reports, some of which were
attributed to Saudi security sources, that linked Iran to the
bombing -- a link which, if proven, could lead to U.S.
military action against Iran.
Nayef's comments come as Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi
Arabia's foreign minister, prepares to visit Iran later this
month. Relations between the two countries have been thawing
since the election last year of moderate Iranian President
Mohammad Khatami, as have relations between Iran and the
"I think from a political point of view, [Nayef's comments]
will help ensure that the issue doesn't become a constant
threat [to] attempts by the U.S. for their part, and by the
Saudis for their part, to improve relations with Tehran,"
said Neil Partrick of the Royal United Services Institute for
Defense Studies in London.
"It's convenient to try and circumvent .. or to try and
prevent any further speculation that might be embarrassing,
given the warming relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, by
trying to suggest, in a sense, that it is a domestic issue,"
Reuters contributed to this report.