Arrest (Illustrative)
Arrest (Illustrative)Thinkstock

The key suspect in a 1996 bombing that killed 19 US airmen in Saudi Arabia was arrested this month at Beirut airport on arrival from Tehran, a Lebanese security official said Thursday.

"Internal Security Forces (ISF) arrested Ahmed al-Mughassil at Beirut airport on August 8 after he arrived from Iran on a forged passport," the security official told AFP.

"He was handed over to Saudi authorities the next day," acting on an extradition request filed by Saudi Arabia, he said.

Mughassil, an alleged co-planner of the truck bombing of a building housing US troops in Khobar, has been turned over "after a hunt that lasted about 19 years", the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported.

It said he had been hiding in Iran.

Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that Saudi intelligence had tipped off the ISF about Mughassil's arrival in Beirut, "based on American information." 

The bomb blast on June 25, 1996 that also wounded more than 370 people, destroyed part of the eight-story Khobar Towers in the eastern Saudi town.

US prosecutors have said Mughassil drove an explosives-laden truck and parked it outside the military compound, which housed US, British, French and Saudi military personnel.

The 48-year-old is said to be the head of the Saudi wing of Hezbollah, an outlawed terror organization whose members are drawn from the kingdom's Shiite Muslim community.

Tehran has denied any involvement in the bombing.