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U.S. Department of State
96/06/26 Press Conference on Bombing of US Military Barracks
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release June 26, 1996
JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE
WITH SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AND FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD AL-FAYSAL
AT SITE OF BOMBING OF U.S. MILITARY BARRACKS
June 26, 1996
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good evening, at President Clinton's request
I've come here to Dhahran to confer with U.S. military and Saudi
military officials about the terrible tragedy that took place here
yesterday. I want to express my deepest sympathies and condolences to
the loved ones of those who were injured and killed in this tragic
Before I leave, I also want to meet some of the dedicated men and women,
who were wounded in this attack. I particularly want to thank Prince
Saud, Prince Bandar, the Deputy Governor and the many Saudi authorities
who've helped in so many ways to provide extraordinary assistance in the
course of this tragedy. I heard many stories of heroism on the part of
the Saudis, who took action to try to ensure that all of the wounded
were out of the building, and who tried to save all of those who could
possibly be saved.
The bomb that exploded last night was a direct and deliberate attack on
the citizens of the United States and on our friends and allies. The
men and women who are here at this base are on a mission of peace. A
mission to deter aggression by Iraq and to enforce the "no fly zone" in
Iraq. The President and I are determined to do everything that we can
to identify and track down and punish those who are responsible for this
cowardly act of It's a danger that knows no
borders or geographic limits.
The President and I have made combating terrorism a central objective of
our policy both at home and abroad. We and our friends around the world
will not be intimidated. These acts of terror only strengthen our
resolve to stay the course and to defend peace and those who take risk
I'm very grateful to King Fahd, Crown Prince Abdallah, and the Saudi
authorities who could not come here and join me on very short notice,
for their strong support -- a support they've always given in the fight
against terror not only here in their country but throughout this
region. The people of America are especially grateful for the historic
efforts that I mentioned in this instance to try to save a maximum
number of lives. And also in many instances to deter others from other
Later tonight, I will fly from here to Lyon to join President Clinton at
The Lyon Summit. Already on the agenda, at the Lyon Summit, was the
issue of international terrorism, but I'm absolutely sure, in the wake
of this terrible attack, the eight leaders will place an even higher
priority on taking firm international steps to deal with terrorism and
to root out the terrorist; to chase them down wherever they are.
Your Highness, Mr. Ambassador, the Governor, thank you very much for all
of your help and cooperation here today and on-going help and
cooperation as we seek to hunt down those who did this dastardly act.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: Mr. Secretary, I'm deeply appreciative too, for
being here because this gives me an opportunity, in the name of the
custodian of the two holy mosques and in the name of the people and
government of Saudi Arabia, to express our condolences to those who have
lost their loved ones. I know that words can not console in tragedies
like this, but one thing we can be sure and make sure is that those who
have perpetrated this act, everything that can be done will be done in
order to apprehend them -- to bring justice.
And also the other aspect of it, is whatever the objective of those who
carried out this dastardly and cowardly act, whatever their objectives,
it will not be achieved. They will neither deter nor divert our common
endeavor. Our hearts, in Saudi Arabia, go out to those who have lost
their loved ones, but we assure them that everything that can be done
will be done to apprehend those and to add to the security of everybody
who is a guest in our country. Thank you Mr. Secretary.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary and Foreign Minister Saud, I know you've had
very little time to talk, but I wonder in your discussions have you yet
touched on security? On our quick visit to see the explosion, it looks
like there was fairly easy access to the outside of the compound for
just such a thing to happen. Have you talked about the whole security
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: As you can see from the site, it was a
horrendous explosion. It's now estimated that it was at least a 3000
pound bomb, perhaps TNT. It left a crater -- looked to me like 30 or 35
feet deep and of equal distance across -- that blew the whole face off
of the building, leaving just nude all of the bedrooms and bathrooms in
the building. That's the building where all the casualties occurred.
There will be an intense investigation conducted jointly by the Saudi
officials and our officials. There are already FBI officials on the
scene. I've met with them and, discussed their processes that could be
a joint endeavor between the Saudis and the American officials.
I think that it would be unwise and premature to try to analyze the
situation at the present time. Certainly, we will make every effort to
investigate fully how it happened and to follow every single lead.
These crimes are usually solved by painstaking, hard forensic work, and
I'm sure that will be done in this instance. There will also have to be
a look at security issues, but here tonight, I can only point to the
fact that this was a bomb of extraordinary proportions. As you perhaps
know from being out at the scene, it knocked windows out in the American
compound a half mile away, buildings were damaged. Every building all
the way back a half mile was injured by the size of this enormous blast.
There are injuries not just in the first building, where all the deaths
occurred, but injuries ranging back a half mile. That's why there are so
many injuries, so many still in hospitals.
It was a bomb of unexpectedly large proportions and we will just have to
analyze that situation in the future, but I don't think that it would be
wise to speculate on that situation here tonight.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: May I add that security organs of both
governments are hard at work in identifying any shortcomings if there
are any. Those who have visited the site have seen the protection.
There was a wall in place but as the Secretary said, the size of the
explosion was well beyond all the protective measures that were taken.
From every tragedy one learns and I'm sure we will learn from this
tragedy to add to the security and the safety of all those concerned.
Already everybody is working hard at this particular issue. The tragedy
is a fresh one in everybody's mind and we only are grateful for the
Secretary for coming here and sharing this tragedy with those who are
living here from the United States and from other countries -- other
guest as well as from the Saudi citizens.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary and Foreign Minister, I would like to ask you
both not to analyze how this happened, but perhaps give us your thoughts
and preliminary analogy of why it might have happened. Do you agree
that this was aimed at the American presence in the region or do you
believe that this time it was aimed at the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia?
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: It's always in the face of these tragedies it is
better not to speculate because speculation detracts from the pursuit of
those who have done this dastardly act. I think this is the time for
the security organs to do the searching and leave the talking until we
have come to our own specific conclusions. But I would like to stress,
whatever the objective of those who have committed this dastardly act,
whatever the objective, at whatever side it is aimed, it shall not
detract nor deter our commitment to peace.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I would want to say the same thing as your
QUESTION: Your Royal Highness, Mr. Secretary, I understand that prior
to this happening there have been threats made against the U.S.
installations. Could you please give some details about what sort of
threats these were? How many threats were made? Were there any
organizations who were named as a result of that? Where there any more
just made? Whether now there has been an adequate investigation into
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: If the Secretary permits me and if I may be
permitted by all of you I would not like to speculate on any of these
issues in naming names. I think it is better left to the security
organizations to tackle these questions and they will be tackled in due
time. Thank you.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's exactly my outlook. It would be unwise
to speculate at the present time. That will be part of the
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I would like to ask (inaudible)
responsibility and far as security measures for the American citizens in
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: There has been no claim of responsibility at the
present time. It's far too early to say whether the bomb that was used
here was similar to or comparable to any other bombs used elsewhere;
that would be part of the forensic analysis for our high military
officials here as well as our Charge d'Affairs. Of course, steps are
being taken because they have long been to protect Americans in Saudi
Arabia. The investigation may provide reasons why additional steps need
to be taken, but right now I think we're in the process of weighing a
great tragedy and trying as the Prince said to see if there are lessons
that must be learned from them.
One thing I might add, at this point is that I think the viewers might
be interested in the fact that the look-out on top of this building,
which I think was eight or nine stories, saw this unfolding down below.
He saw the truck parked and the car rush away. He started down trying
to alert the people in the building and he was only able to get down one
or two floors before the bomb went off. It was estimated to be about
three minutes after the truck was parked there -- probably a fuse of
some kind, the experts say -- but I think that this was a very heroic
act that he performed. A citizen who's on top of the building saw what
was happening and rather than saving himself he rushed down to alert
many and many are alive today because of his heroism and hope to have a
chance to meet him before I leave.
QUESTION: Are you going to reduce your forces in the region?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I would say absolutely not. We will continue
our necessary missions we need to involve in ensuring that there will
not be a new round of aggression coming from Iraq. We will continue to
carry out that mission undeterred by today's events.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: May I mention on a personal level that the
gentlemen, who the Secretary was so kind to mention, who performed this
heroic deed that saved many lives is Staff Sergeant Guerero, so to him
goes our thanks and our gratitude. Thank you.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: If I could just add one phrase, and that is that
it seems to me that every terrorist act only underscores the need to
continue the search for peace. The only long-term answer to this kind
of terrorism is to produce a region at peace with itself and with its
neighbors and I am sure that Prince Saud will join me in a recommitment
to search for peace in the region.
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