[A report headlined ‘Bomb-maker’ brags about El Al blast, posts Lockerbie photos has been published today on the website of The Times of Israel. It reads as follows:]
The man investigators initially believed built the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie 25 years ago maintains a Facebook page on which he recently posted pictures of the Lockerbie bombing and promised to write about the circumstances of the attack.
Marwan Khreesat, who now lives in Jordan, was arrested but bizarrely released by German police two months before the Lockerbie bombing as part of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command cell found in possession of bombs designed to blow up airliners.
He writes frequent posts condemning Israel, the Palestinian Authority for dealing with Israel, the Assad regime and others. Late last year, he also castigated PFLP-GC leader Ahmad Jibril, for whom he allegedly built several bombs used to blow up airplanes in the 1970s, accusing Jibril of abandoning the Palestinian cause in siding with the Assad regime.
Last week, Khreesat posted an entry boasting about the PFLP-GC’s bombing of an El Al plane from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1972, describing the attack as “a challenge to the Israeli intelligence agents who are responsible for searching luggage and everything that goes on a plane.”
It was subsequently established that the 1972 El Al bomb — designed to explode when the plane reached a certain altitude — had been hidden in a record player which two British women had been duped into carrying by two Arab men who were later arrested. Although the bomb exploded, the pilot was able to make an emergency landing. ”It was a successful blow against the Israeli enemy,” Khreesat wrote in a March 14 Facebook post, in which he also described spending time with Jibril in Rome as they waited for the attack to unfold.
In several posts relating to Lockerbie in recent weeks, Khreesat recalled his arrest two months before the December 21, 1988, bombing and posted pictures of the destroyed cockpit of the 747 after the explosion, the painstakingly reconstructed parts of the plane wreckage, and a radio-recorder like the one that held the bomb. He also asked a series of unanswered questions about the attack. “Who did the operation?” he asked in a post on the 25th anniversary of the blast. “Israel? Iran? Libya? Who carried the Toshiba explosive device [in which the bomb was hidden]? … Did the explosive device come from Malta airport like the American intelligence agencies say?… When will these riddles be solved.”
Last October, Khreesat posted that he intended to “write about Pan Am 103,” including “who was on the flight and the circumstances of the incident.”
British and American investigators initially believed that the PFLP-GC had blown up the plane, in which all 259 people on board and 11 more on the ground were killed, and suggested the attack had been ordered by Iran to avenge the mistaken downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by the USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf six months earlier in which 290 people were killed.
Later, however, suspicion switched to Libya, and to a former Libyan intelligence officer, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. Megrahi was convicted and jailed in 2001 after a trial in which his fellow alleged Libyan conspirator, Lamin Fhima, was acquitted. He died in 2012 still insisting on his innocence.
In 2007, a Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found a series of grounds to justify concerns that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. The process by which Megrahi was identified has been widely criticized, and the authenticity of a timer fragment central to the implication of Libya in the plot has been increasingly questioned.
An Al Jazeera documentary last week implicated the PFLP-GC in the bombing, and a former Iranian intelligence officer, Abolghasem Mesbahi, who defected to Germany in the 1990s, alleged that Iran had commissioned it, stating that “Iran decided to retaliate [for the downing of its own Flight 655] as soon as possible. The decision was made by the whole system in Iran and confirmed by Ayatollah Khomeini.”
Khreesat originally agreed to be interviewed for the documentary, the program-makers said, but later refused to do so, and was quoted in the film saying, “All my problems are because of Lockerbie.”