1984 United States embassy annex bombing in Beirut

On September 20, 1984, the Shi'a Islamic militant group Hezbollah, with support and direction from the Islamic Republic of Iran, carried out a suicide car bombing targeting the U.S. embassy annex in East Beirut, Lebanon. The attack killed 24 people.

1984 United States embassy annex bombing
Part of the Lebanese Civil War
US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon (Muslim West side) in September, 1984 Photo by Nancy Wong.tif
LocationBeirut, Lebanon
DateSeptember 20, 1984
11:44 a.m.
Attack type
Suicide car bomb
Deaths24 (including the bomber)
Islamic Republic of Iran

Hezbollah had also used suicide car or truck bombs in the April 1983 U.S. embassy bombing and the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings.


In July 1984, the U.S. had relocated its embassy operations from West Beirut to the relative security of Aukar, a Christian suburb of East Beirut.[1] When on September 20, 1984, the attacker sped his van laden with 3,000 pounds (1360 kg) of explosives toward the six-story embassy, crucial security measures had not yet been completed at the complex, including a massive steel gate. The van was heading for the entrance of the diplomatic facility, but did not get within ten yards of the building after the driver was shot by a bodyguard of the British ambassador and Lebanese embassy guards and lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle detonated at 11:44 a.m. after striking a parked van.[2]

The explosion "ripped off the front of the embassy, shredding glass, bending steel bars and destroying cars in a nearby parking lot." The attack killed a total of 24 people (including the suicide bomber). Only two of the dead were American: Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth V. Welch of the U.S. Army and Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Ray Wagner of the U.S. Navy, who were both assigned to the U.S. Defense Attache Office in Beirut. The majority of those killed were Lebanese, "either local employees or people seeking visas". Of the injured, the U.S. Ambassador, Reginald Bartholomew, was slightly hurt, as well as the British Ambassador, David Miers, who was meeting with Bartholomew at the time of explosion.[3]


The Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call a few hours after the explosion. The caller said, "The operation goes to prove that we will carry out our previous promise not to allow a single American to remain on Lebanese soil."[3] The U.S. government understood that Hezbollah had carried out the attack under the cover name of IJO with the support of Iran.[4] Through satellite reconnaissance, U.S. intelligence discovered that a mock-up of the annex had been created at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard-run Sheikh Abdullah barracks in Baalbek to practice for the attack.[5][6]

Legal casesEdit

Under the amended Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, victims of the bombing and their families have filed cases against the Islamic Republic of Iran, holding it responsible for its role in the attack and demanding compensation.

  • Estate of Doe, et al. v Republic of Iran, et al. (2013) – 58 foreign national employees and one American employee that were killed or injured in the 1983 embassy bombing and 1984 embassy annex bombing are awarded $8.4 billion. The judge ruled "that the attacks were carried out by the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, known most commonly as Hezbollah, operating with Iranian support and encouragement."[7]
  • Brewer v. Islamic Republic of Iran (2009) – Security guard Richard Brewer and his family are awarded $310 million in damages. Brewer was injured in the bombing. The judge ruled "Hezbollah received substantial funds and support from Iran via its Ministry of Information and Security and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. This court concludes that defendants provided 'material support and resources' to Hezbollah."[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Neighbors of Embassy Say They're in Danger". The New York Times. 24 September 1984.
  2. ^ Wright, Robin (2001). Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam. Simon and Schuster. pp. 106–108. ISBN 9780743233422. sacred rage.
  3. ^ a b "23 Die, Including 2 Americans, in Terrorist Car Bomb Attack on the U.S. Embassy at Beirut". The New York Times. 21 September 1984.
  4. ^ Levitt, Matthew (2013). Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God. p. 23. ISBN 9781626160132.
  5. ^ Crist, David (2012). The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran. pp. 151–152. ISBN 9781101572344.
  6. ^ Willis, David (2004). The First War on Terrorism: Counter-terrorism Policy during the Reagan Administration. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9781417503612.
  7. ^ "Representative Engagements". Crowell & Moring.
  8. ^ "Iran Ordered to Pay $310 Million to U.S. Embassy Bombing Victim". Bloomberg. 16 October 2009.