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1983 U.S. Embassy bombing

US Embassy 3 days after the bombing
Location 33°54′5″N 35°29′6″E / 33.90139°N 35.485°E / 33.90139; 35.485Coordinates: 33°54′5″N 35°29′6″E / 33.90139°N 35.485°E / 33.90139; 35.485
United States Embassy, Beirut, Lebanon
Date April 18, 1983
1:03 pm
Attack type Suicide car bomb
Death(s) 32 Lebanese employees, 17 Americans, and 14 visitors and passersby, 1 suicide bomber
Injured 63
Perpetrator(s) Islamic Jihad Organization (claimed responsibility)
Hezbollah (court finding)

The 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing was a suicide bombing against the United States Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon on April 18, 1983 that killed over 60 people, mostly embassy staff members and United States Marines and Sailors. It was the deadliest attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission up to that time, and is seen by some as marking the beginning of anti-U.S. attacks by Islamic groups.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the blast with a message "promising not to allow a single American to remain on Lebanese soil ... we mean every inch of Lebanese territory. ..."[1]

The attack came in the wake of the intervention of a Multinational Force, made up of Western countries, including Americans, in the Lebanese Civil War, to try and restore order and central government authority. It also followed the massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Lebanese Christian militiamen, and four years after the anti-Western Islamic Revolution in Iran.



The car bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber driving a delivery van packed with about 2,000 pounds (910 kg) of explosives at approximately 1:00 pm (GMT+2) April 18, 1983. The van, believed to have been stolen from the embassy a year before, gained access to the embassy compound and parked under the portico at the very front of the building, where it exploded. Former CIA operative Robert Baer suggests that the van broke through an outbuilding, crashed through the lobby door and exploded there.[2] The blast collapsed the entire central facade of the horseshoe-shaped building, leaving the wreckage of balconies and offices in heaped tiers of rubble, and spewing masonry, metal and glass fragments in a wide swath. The explosion was heard throughout West Beirut and broke windows as far as a mile away. Rescue workers worked around the clock, unearthing the dead and wounded.

Death toll

A total of 63 people were killed in the bombing: 32 Lebanese employees, 17 Americans, and 14 visitors and passersby.[3] Of the American dead, eight worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, including the CIA's top Middle East analyst and Near East director, Robert C. Ames, Station Chief Kenneth Haas and the entire Middle East contingent of the CIA.< An additional 120 or so people were wounded in the bombing.


World response

President Ronald Reagan on April 18 denounced the “vicious terrorist bombing” as a “cowardly act,” saying, “This criminal act on a diplomatic establishment will not deter us from our goals of peace in the region.” Two envoys, Philip C. Habib and Morris Draper, continued their peace mission in Beirut to discuss Lebanese troop withdrawals with a renewed sense of urgency.

The next day, Ambassador Dillon, who had narrowly escaped injury in the bombing, said: “Paramount among the essential business is our work for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.” It is only by securing Lebanese government control over the country “that terrible tragedies like the one we experienced yesterday can be avoided in the future.”

The President of Lebanon, Amine Gemayel, connected with President Reagan on April 18, saying, “The Lebanese people and myself express our deepest condolences to the families of the U.S. victims. The cross of peace is the burden of the courageous." Meanwhile, Lebanon asked the U.S., France, and Italy to double the size of the peacekeeping force. As of March 16, it numbered about 4,800 troops, including some 1,200 U.S. Marines, 1,400 Italian soldiers, 2,100 French paratroopers and 100 British soldiers.

Iran denied any role in the attack. Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati said, “We deny any involvement and we think this allegation is another propaganda plot against us.”[4]

On April 19, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel sent President Reagan a message of condolence for the embassy bombing. “I write in the name of Israel when I express to you my deep shock at the terrible outrage which took the lives of so many of the American embassy in Beirut yesterday.” Defense Minister Moshe Arens, was quoted by Israeli radio that he told the cabinet the attack “justified Israel’s demands for security arrangements in Lebanon.” Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir called the embassy bombing “shocking” but added that, “In Lebanon nothing is surprising. I think the lesson is simple and understood. The security problems in Lebanon are still most serious, and terrorist organizations will continue to operate there, at times with great success.”

U.S. Congressional response

The House Foreign Affairs Committee April 19 voted to approve $251 million in additional economic and military aid for Lebanon, as requested by the administration. But it attached an amendment to the bill that would force the White House to seek approval for any expanded U.S. military role.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee followed suit April 20, approving the aid request but attaching an amendment that required the president to obtain congressional authorization for "any substantial expansion in the number or role of U.S. armed forces in Lebanon or for the creation of a new, expanded or extended multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon." If Congress did not act jointly on such a request within 60 days, however, the increase would then take effect automatically.

The Senate amendment was sponsored as a compromise by committee Chairman Charles H. Percy (R, Ill.). It prevented a move by the committee's ranking Democrat, Claiborne Pell (R.I.), to extend the 1973 War Powers Resolution to Lebanon. Pell April 20 said he would have had the votes to apply the resolution to U.S. Marines in Lebanon. The law limited presidential commitment of troops in hostile situations to a maximum of 90 days unless Congress specifically approved their use.

Undersecretary of State Kenneth W. Dam, in a letter to the committee, had argued forcefully against use of the War Powers Resolution. Dam said it would "amount to a public finding that U.S. forces will be exposed to imminent risk of involvement in hostilities," which "could give entirely the wrong public impression" of U.S. expectations for Lebanon's future. Several influential congressmen had been urging an end to the U.S. military role in Lebanon. After the embassy bombing, April 19, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R, Ariz.) said, "I think it's high time we bring the boys home."



A pro-Iranian group calling itself the Hezbollah or "Party of God" ("Islamic Struggle") Organization took responsibility for the bombing in a telephone call to a news office immediately after the blast. The anonymous caller said, "This is part of the Iranian revolution's campaign against imperialist targets throughout the world. We shall keep striking at any imperialist presence in Lebanon, including the international force."[5] (The group had earlier taken responsibility for a grenade attack in which five U.S. members of the international peacekeeping force had been wounded.)

Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. September 8, 2003, awarded $123 million to 29 American victims and family members of Americans killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Judge Royce Lamberth of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. May 30, 2003, had determined that the bombing was carried out by the militant group Hezbollah with the approval and financing of senior Iranian officials, paving the way for the victims to seek damages. The trial had opened March 17.

Other effects

Following the attack, the embassy was moved to a supposedly more secure location in East Beirut. However, on September 20, 1984, another car bomb exploded at this embassy annex, killing twenty Lebanese and two American soldiers.

The use of suicide bombing increased following the incident. Car bombings through the rest of 1983 included attacks against the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait, the invading Israeli Army HQ in Tyre, and the extremely destructive attacks on the U.S. Marine and French Paratrooper barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983.

Along with the Marine Barracks bombing, the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing prompted the Inman Report, a review of overseas security for the U.S. Department of State. This in turn prompted the creation of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Diplomatic Security Service within the U.S. State Department.

See also

External links


  1. ^ Wright, Robin, Sacred Rage, Simon and Schuster, 2001, p.107
  2. ^ Baer, Robert, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, Crown Publishers, 2002, p.66
  3. ^ U.S. Diplomacy
  4. ^ Associated Press. "Iran Denies Any Involvement In Bombing of U.S. Embassy", New York Times, 1983-05-20. Retrieved on 2008-06-13.
  5. ^ Anderson, Terry A. (April 18, 1983). "Bomb kills 28 as U.S. Embassy". Syracuse Herald Journal. Retrieved January 9, 2008.  
  • Goodarzi, Jubin M. Syria and Iran: Diplomatic Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East. New York: Tauris Academic Studies, 2006.
  • Kushner, Dr. Harvey W. Encycolpedia of Terrorism. United States: Sage Publications, Inc., 2003.
  • Martin, Gus. The New Era of Terrorism: Selected Readings. United States: Sage Publications, Inc., 2004.
  • Daragahi, Borzou, "Victims Of 1983 Bombing Of U.S. Embassy In Beirut Recalled", Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2008.

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