CHARLES KRAUSE: The truck bomb exploded at 10:30 PM local time. It was parked approximately 35 yards from the nearest apartment building on the Saudi base near Dhahran and was packed with two and a half tons of explosives. The blast created a crater 85 feet wide and 35 feet deep.
Some 2900 U.S. troops live in the compound. Most of them are Air Force personnel stationed there to help enforce the United Nations no-fly zone over Iraq. British, French, and Saudi troops are also housed on the base. By dawn, the number of dead had reached 19, all of them Americans. Up to 300 people were injured. The death toll made it the worst single attack for the U.S. military since a 1983 car bomb killed 241 American servicemen in Beirut, Lebanon.
Officials in Riyadh said the truck would have had to have penetrated base security to reach the location of the explosion, but concrete barriers in front of the buildings prevented a more direct attack. No individual or group has yet claimed responsibility. At the White House today, President Clinton said the United States would not rest in its fight against terrorism. He spoke on the White House lawn before leaving to attend the G-7 summit in France.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Defeating these organized forces of destruction is one of the most important challenges our country faces at the end of this century and the beginning of the next. The G-7 is primarily an economic group, but I will say to my partners there what I say to my fellow Americans today: we cannot have economic security in a global economy unless we can stand against these forces of terrorism. The United States will lead the way, and we expect our allies to walk with us hand in hand. We cannot tolerate this kind of conduct.
CHARLES KRAUSE: The President dispatched a team of 40 FBI investigators to the site last night. Secretary of State Christopher interrupted peace talks with Egyptian President Mubarak to travel to Dhahran. He toured the wreckage today and visited the injured and families of the victims.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER, Secretary of State: The bomb that exploded last night was a direct and deliberate attack on 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 Iran and to enforce a no-fly zone.
CHARLES KRAUSE: And at the State Department in Washington, the spokesman said it was nearly impossible to guard against such attacks.
GLYN DAVIES, State Department Spokesman: A determined terrorist is difficult to stop, especially if they concoct the kinds of devices that we've seen explode here, you know, in Dhahran. That kind of a device that can leave a crater 30 feet deep and 80 feet wide is awfully hard to guard against. You can't close every road. You can't increase your setbacks to such an extent that you have absolutely no contact with the public or the public can't get to you in any fashion.
CHARLES KRAUSE: The Saudi government has offered a $2.7 million reward for information that leads to arrests. In November, there was a car bomb attack on a U.S.-run military facility in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Five Americans and two Indians were killed in that attack. Last month, Saudi authorities beheaded four Muslim extremists convicted for their part in that blast after their confessions were broadcast on Saudi television. A Defense Department spokesman said today that security in Dhahran had been tightened since the Riyadh attack.