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Pan Am 103 to Lockerbie

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posted on Aug, 13 2009 @ 11:30 AM
Officers from the RAF, CID, Scottish police and the CIA spent the Christmas of 1988 combing the bleak lowlands around Lockerbie, Scotland. They were looking, over 850 square miles, for remnants of Pan Am Flight 103, which had left London’s Heathrow airport on the early evening of December 21. The Boeing 747, the Maid of the Seas, had 259 passengers and crew aboard, 189 of whom were Americans, and was on the Atlantic leg of a Frankfurt – London – New York – Detroit flight.

Just after 7pm, the Maid of the Seas had entered Scottish airspace at around 30,000 feet, out of sight and sound as it approached the small town of Lockerbie. Then at 7.03pm, 38 minutes into the flight, a bomb had exploded in the forward luggage hold. The disintegrating plane hurtled earthwards, with the fuel - laden wings exploding into Lockerbie’s homes, killing eleven townsfolk. Although its thought that some 150 passengers survived the initial explosion, everyone on board was killed on impact.

Police and intelligence services from the US, UK, Germany and the Middle East joined in the search for the killers, focusing on Syria, Libya, Germany, Scotland, London, Beirut and Washington. But it was not until November 14, 1991 that the two Libyan intelligence officers, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah were indicted for blowing up PA 103 by the Scottish Crown Office and the State Department. Then it was another ten years before a Scottish court, which Libya insisted should be set up in Holland, could try the two men for murder and conspiracy to destroy an aircraft.

In January 2001, after an eight – month trial with three judges but no jury, Al Megrahi was found guilty and Khalifa Fhimah was cleared. The case took so long to come to court because the Libyan government persistently denied the charges, and for seven years, refused to hand over the pair, despite the imposition of punitive UN economic sanctions in 1992. These sanctions were finally lifted in August 2002, after the Libyan government offered to pay $2.7 billion in compensation.

However, Libya’s president Mohammed Qaddafi has always insisted that Al Megrahi didn’t do it, as has his prime minister, Shokri Ghanem, who told BBC Radio 4 in February 2004 that Libya had paid the compensation in order to get the sanctions lifted, not because it accepted guilt. The payout was the “price of peace”, as Ghanem put it, and resulted in the sanctions being suspended and diplomatic relations with Britain restored. Evidently, those who thought Libya’s official statement accepting responsibility “lacked remorse” were right. But the Libyan government isn’t alone in protesting its innocence, and many believe that the country was the victim of far bigger conspiracies.

The case against the Libyans

The prosecution had charged that Al Megrahi and Khalifa Fhimah had placed a Samsonite suitcase containing a Toshiba radio filled with plastic explosive onto an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt. There, it was alleged, the case had been transferred onto PA 103. The bombing was said to be an act of revenge for the April 1986 US air attack on Tripoli, itself revenge for Libya’s supposed involvement in the bombing of a Berlin nightclub frequented by US marines. Under the mercurial Colonel Qaddafi, Libya was perfectly capable of such outrages. By the mid – 1980’s, he was seen in the West as a madman who had turned his oil – rich country into the worlds number one terrorist state ( an image sufficiently familiar for Libyan terrorists to feature in the 1985 comedy film, Back to the Future ). Qadaffi’s delusions of pan – Arabian grandeur and of breaking the West’s hold over the Middle East marked him out as an international troublemaker.

Libya wasn’t the first, or biggest suspect

During the trial, the Arab news network Al Jazeera reported that former Iranian intelligence official Ahmed Behbahani claimed responsibility for international attacks carried out by the Iranian government, including Lockerbie. The news agency’s notion that this might “have an impact on the current trial in the Netherlands” wasn’t borne out, and Al Jazeera suggested that Behbahani might have some desire for revenge against the Iranian government. Both the Organisation of African Unity and Nelson Mandela, however, have questioned the validity of Al Megrahi conviction, with the latter visiting Al Megrahi in his Glaswegian prison in 2002. During the trial, both of the Libyans had pleaded not guilty, and blamed Syrian – backed Palestinians.

Most tellingly, the German government refused to back the US and UK indictment of the Libyans. Investigations by the then - West German police into the Frankfurt link had pointed to an offshoot of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Syrian – backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). Police raids on PFLP-GC cells in West Germany prior to the bombing had uncovered radio bombs and barometric (altitude-triggered) fuses. One of the seventeen suspects arrested during the raids, Mohammed Abu Talb, had a calendar on which he had circled December 21 – the date PA 103 had crashed. But Talb, who was placed in Malta at the time of the bombing, ended up as a key witness for the prosecution, for which he was granted lifelong immunity. However , in 2005, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, who presided over the Lockerbie investigation and issued the two arrest warrants, told The Sunday Times that Talb was “unreliable”, and “an apple short of a picnic”.

The fact was, by late 1989, there was “virtually no disagreement” among investigators and intelligence agents that the PFLP-GC was responsible, as David Johnson reported that year in his book Lockerbie: The Tragedy of Flight 103 – a claim repeated in Steven Emerson and Brian Duffy’s The Fall of Pan Am 103.


posted on Aug, 13 2009 @ 11:34 AM
An unlikely coincidence over the Gulf War and Western hostages

In early 1991, US president George H.W. Bush asked British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for the PFLP-GC investigation to be “toned down”. Days after the Libyans were indicted that year, Bush and Syria – which had backed the US in the first Gulf War – had taken a “bum rap” over PA 103; meanwhile, the US State Department said that Libya – which had condemned the Gulf War – had tried to frame Syria and the PFLP-GC by planting false leads. The UK Foreign Office chimed in by stating that Libya was the sole and prime suspect for the bombing. In the following days, as the shift in blame was being digested, the last Western hostages in Beirut were released. This pretty neat coincidence was picked up on by the BBC’s 1993 documentary, Silence Over Lockerbie, which debunked the case against Libya and blames Syria and Iran.

Syria, the CIA and a case of drugs

References to drug dealing hit on an interesting fact about Flight PA 103. Among the debris scattered across the moors, searchers found $500,000 in cash and a case containing cannabis and heroin. These were taken away by a helicopter-borne troupe of CIA agents, who also removed an unidentified body. One tagged body was also moved from one area of the crash site to another, and another body disappeared altogether.
The CIA had arrived at Lockerbie within just two hours of the crash, looking for members of a CIA team who had been on the flight after working in Beirut to secure the release of American hostages being held in that war torn city. After having seemingly found what they were looking for, they left with a suitcase and some documents that were carried on board by US Army Special Forces major Charles McKee.

The possible significance of the CIA’s involvement was brought out by an investigation that Pan Am commissioned from Juval Aviv, a former Mossad agent. The investigation suggested that “rouge” CIA agents had allowed a Syrian arms dealer to smuggle heroin into the US on PA 103, in exchange for the release of US hostages in Beirut.

McKee’s team were couriering the drugs, but the drugs were switched for a bomb during a stopover in Frankfurt – not Malta – a bomb meant to specifically take out McKee’s team. As Al Jazeera reported years later, Aviv was able to find this out because Mossad had helped set up the Syria-drugs-CIA triangle.

Some warnings were heeded, others were not

In 1989, a US State Department ambassador told a Senate subcommittee that if there had been any foreknowledge of an attack, the Beirut team would not have taken the flight. Yet despite the fact that many Americans were going home for Christmas at the time, the ill-fated PA 103 was only two-thirds full. This was because, victims’ relatives alleged, many State Department employees had cancelled their reservations and flown on other airlines.

An anonymous call was made to Helsinki’s US embassy on December 5th, 1988, warning that within two weeks an American airliner from Frankfurt to New York would be bombed. The State Department and UK government both stated that at the time, it was considered a hoax.

A researcher for a House Transportation subcommittee, however, found that the State Department hadn’t considered the warning a “hoax” until after Lockerbie, and that it had been circulated to numerous US agencies and embassies, suggesting a retrospective cover-up.

The aftermath

Its odd that the Libyans would endure ten years of economically painful sanctions, then give up the suspects and pay a $2.7 billion fine, yet still protest their innocence. Obviously, they were acting out of self interest in taking the “reward” of economic and diplomatic rehabilitation in return for accepting responsibility for Lockerbie, but having done so, you might think that they would prefer not to risk rocking the diplomatic boat by reviving the controversy.


John Ashton and Ian Ferguson – Cover-up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie (2002)

Steven Emerson and Brian Duffy – The Fall of Pan Am 103 (1990)
David Johnston – Lockerbie: The Tragedy of Flight 103

- James McConnachie and Robin Tudge


News article from today (13/08/09)

'Just a tool' And Martin Cadman, who lost his son in the bombing, said he believed Mergrahi was an innocent man who had acted with others. He said: "As far as I know the Scottish authorities and no-one else has done anything to try and find who these others were that were supposed to be implicated, so the whole thing is really very unsatisfactory".

Bob Monetti, a past president of the organisation Victims of Flight 103, lost his 20-year-old son Richard in the bombing. He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We understand that Megrahi was just a tool in this. He wasn't really the person that decided what to do.

posted on Aug, 13 2009 @ 02:56 PM
The Conspiracy Files - Lockerbie

posted on Aug, 14 2009 @ 03:03 AM
And RIGHT NOW, the Govt. in Scotland are considering releasing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, from Greenock Prison, near Glasgow, on "compassionate grounds".
If he was responsible for the deaths of 270 people, he should never see the light of day again.
If he wasn't.... then the case is still open, and those responsible should be brought to justice.

Great post, well written and put together, S&F.
Many Thanks for this.

posted on Aug, 14 2009 @ 06:13 AM
reply to post by Gordi The Drummer

I had included the BBC news story about his release in my post.

I agree with you that if he was responsible he should never be freed. The very fact that it could become a reality is even more evidence, in my opinion, that he was set up.

Im afraid the 'real' terrorists will never be brought to justice because of the power they wield.


posted on Aug, 19 2009 @ 02:45 PM
It's just been reported on the STV news that he is going to be released in the next 12 hours on compassionate grounds.

The more you read into this case, the more you think that it could well have been a set up.

The man who was "an apple short of a picnic" was, I believe, Tony Gauci. He was the Maltese shopkeeper who fingered Megrahi ( allegedly four days after being shown his pic in a magazine).

posted on Aug, 22 2009 @ 12:47 PM
well, Libya would do pretty much everything to avert sanctions or impending hostilities, wouldn't they?

He also said that at the time he became aware of the matter, no one really believed there would ever be a trial. When it did come about, he believed both accused would be acquitted. When Megrahi was convicted, he told himself he'd be cleared at appeal."

The source added: "When that also failed, he explained he felt he had to come forward.

"He has confirmed that parts of the case were fabricated and that evidence was planted. At first he requested anonymity, but has backed down and will be identified if and when the case returns to the appeal court."

The vital evidence that linked the bombing of Pan Am 103 to Megrahi was a tiny fragment of circuit board which investigators found in a wooded area many miles from Lockerbie months after the atrocity.

The fragment was later identified by the FBI's Thomas Thurman as being part of a sophisticated timer device used to detonate explosives, and manufactured by the Swiss firm Mebo, which supplied it only to Libya and the East German Stasi.

At one time, Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent, was such a regular visitor to Mebo that he had his own office in the firm's headquarters.

The fragment of circuit board therefore enabled Libya - and Megrahi - to be placed at the heart of the investigation. However, Thurman was later unmasked as a fraud who had given false evidence in American murder trials, and it emerged that he had little in the way of scientific qualifications.

Then, in 2003, a retired CIA officer gave a statement to Megrahi's lawyers in which he alleged evidence had been planted.

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