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US court orders Iran to pay further $879m for 1996 Saudi truck bomb attack

Federal judge rules Tehran ‘aided Hezbollah in carrying out a horrific, violent attack that killed 19 people and injured hundreds more’; unclear how they can collect

This June 30,1996 photo, show a general view of the destroyed Khobar Towers and crater where a truck bomb exploded at a US military complex killing 19 Americans and injuring hundreds in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Saleh Rifai)
This June 30,1996 photo, show a general view of the destroyed Khobar Towers and crater where a truck bomb exploded at a US military complex killing 19 Americans and injuring hundreds in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Saleh Rifai)

A US judge has ordered Iran to pay a further $879.1 million over a 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US airmen, ruling again that Tehran bore responsibility for the attack.

US President Donald Trump’s administration hailed the latest judgment against Iran, which denies involvement and refuses to pay.

Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the US federal district court in Washington, cited previous evidence as she wrote that Iran “aided Hezbollah in carrying out a horrific, violent attack that killed 19 people and injured hundreds more.”

In a July 2 ruling that was made public this week, she ordered the damages for 14 US service members who were injured in the attack as well as 21 family members.

Chief Judge Beryl A, Howell at an awards breakfast for pro bono counsel at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, April 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Explaining why the amount includes punitive damages, she said that the plaintiffs “suffered physical injuries and psychological trauma” and that “there is a need to deter future terrorist attacks.”

Glenn Tyler Christie, who led the suit, was cleaning a nearby kitchen at the time of the blast and still suffers both physical and psychological problems including chronic headaches and depression, the ruling said.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus hailed the decision, writing on Twitter: “Justice is overdue for the many victims of Iranian-supported terror.”

In 2018, Howell ordered Iran to pay $104.7 million compensation for the attack in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

At that time, she had rejected the punitive part of the damages, saying that changes in US law precluded such penalties for incidents before 2008.

But in May, the US Supreme Court allowed for punitive damages for pre-2008 attacks in a unanimous decision involving Sudan.

A separate court decision in 2013 ordered Iran to pay $591 million to the family of one of the US airmen who died.

However, it was unclear how the plaintiffs could actually collect the money.

A 35 feet deep and 85 feet wide crater made by a truck bomb is shown June 26, 1996 at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

The Khobar Towers dormitory complex housed US, British, French and Saudi military personnel attached to the nearby King Abdul Aziz airbase.

The massive bomb attack, which also wounded more than 370 people, destroyed part of the eight-story complex.

Saudi Hezbollah is an outlawed organization whose members are drawn from the kingdom’s Shiite Muslim community.

Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States, has hit back that Washington should pay for past wrongdoing including support for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.

The International Court of Justice last year let Iran continue with legal action seeking to unblock Iranian assets frozen by the United States, which says the money should go to pay victims under court judgments.

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