Key Points:

WASHINGTON - A United States federal judge on Friday ordered the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay US$254 million ($369.77 million) to the family of 17 US servicemen killed in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence at a US military base in Saudi Arabia.

The default judgment was entered against the Iranian government, its security ministry and the Revolutionary Guards after they failed to respond to the lawsuit, which was initiated more than four years ago.

In issuing the US$254.4 million judgment in the case, US District Judge Royce Lamberth concluded that the Khobar Towers attack was carried out by people recruited by General Ahmed Sharifi of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

The truck bomb involved in the attack was assembled at a base in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley operated by Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards, and the attack was approved by Ayatollah Khameini, the supreme leader of Iran, the 209-page ruling found.

The decision relied heavily on an investigation of the attack by the FBI under director Louis Freeh. The FBI probe led to the grand jury indictment of 13 members of Hezbollah in June 21, 2001.

"The totality of the evidence at trial, combined with the findings and conclusions entered by this court ... firmly establishes that the Khobar Towers bombing was planned, funded and sponsored by senior leadership in the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Lamberth wrote.

"The sheer gravity and nature of the attack demonstrate the defendants' unlawful intent to inflict severe emotional distress upon the American servicemen as well as their close relatives," he added.

The bombing of Khobar Towers, a residence on a US military base in Dhahran, killed a total of 19 servicemen.