BEIRUT: The U.S. president commemorated the victims of the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, 30 years after incident, dubbed the deadliest single-day assault on the country’s naval fleet since World War II.
In the statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, President Barack Obama said “Hezbollah suicide bombers” were to blame for both truck bomb attacks that struck separate buildings accommodating U.S. and French military forces.
Obama said that “220 marines, 18 sailors and 3 soldiers lost their lives to a Hezbollah suicide bomber who attacked the marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon,” adding: “Minutes later, 58 French paratroopers lost their lives when a second Hezbollah suicide bomber attacked the French barracks.”
The attacks, which occurred during the Lebanese Civil War, resulted in the highest single-day death toll for the U.S. Marine Corps since the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, according to Obama.
The incidents eventually led to the withdrawal of a multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon, including both U.S. and French contingents.
A U.S. investigation blamed lax security for allowing the bomber to enter the Marines’ compound.
“We join with the families and their loved ones in paying tribute to the fallen and in sharing our deep appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice made in service to our nation,” the U.S. president said. “We also honor the courage and bravery of those warriors who survived the attack and spent days digging their brothers out of the rubble.”
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale held an event for the occasion with the attendance of French envoys. He reiterated Obama’s tribute to the victims of the attack, according to an embassy statement.
“I remember this day 30 years ago very well. I was in graduate school studying Arabic and the Middle East and waiting for admission to the U.S. Foreign Service,” Hale said.
Many consider the attack to be the trigger event in America’s “War against Terror,” Hale said. “Just as a generation of Americans carries the iconic image of the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11, many of my generation remember an iconic photo of a wounded American Marine being carried by a stretcher out of the rubble of those barracks,” he said.
The U.S. Marine Corps top generals and survivors of the attack also gathered to mark the anniversary at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Many of the 241 Americans killed in the attack were members of Camp Lejeune’s 24th Marine Amphibious Unit.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos spoke at a memorial bordering the camp to honor the victims.