US Congress votes to allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

Members of the US House of Representatives on the steps of the Capitol for a ceremony marking the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on September 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

The US Congress has passed a bill that would allow families of those killed in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, although the White House has threatened to veto the measure.

The US House of Representatives passed the legislation by voice vote on Friday, which sparked cheers and applause in its chamber two days before the 15th anniversary of the hijacked-plane attacks on New York and Washington.

The US Senate had unanimously approved the bill known as ‘Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act’ in May, despite speculations that it could strain relations between Washington and Riyadh.

"This legislation would change long-standing, international law regarding sovereign immunity. And the president of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world," White House spokesman Josh Earnest had said at the time.

Earlier on Friday, the White House had reiterated that US President Barack Obama would veto the bill.

If Obama carries out his veto threat while the required two-thirds of the House and Senate still support the bill, it would be the first time since Obama's presidency in 2009 that Congress had overridden a veto.

Ties between Saudi officials and terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks were exposed when US lawmakers released 28 secret pages of a congressional investigation.

Several suspicious connections were outlined in the report between the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi citizens, and the monarchy’s officials; however, no definitive comment is made about the Saudi involvement.

Saudi Arabia has strongly opposed the legislation. It has threatened to sell off $750 billion in American assets if it becomes law.

The 9/11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.