[This is the headline over a report just published on the website of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. It reads as follows:]
Unconfirmed reports from the Syrian capital have claimed Ahmed Jibril, the founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) who has been on the America’s “most wanted” list for decades, has been assassinated by an al-Qaeda affiliated group.
Jordanian media have reported that Jabhat al-Nusra, an off-shoot of al-Qaeda, used an improvised explosive device to kill the 76-year-old Jibril, a strong supporter of Syria’s President Assad. The reports state that the attack on Jibril took place several days ago and although the Palestinian leader survived the initial attack he succumbed to his injuries in a Damascus hospital on Monday.
“If it is true that Jibril is dead, I don't think that makes much difference to the search for the truth about Lockerbie,” Robert Black, Professor Emeritus of Scottish Law at the University of Edinburgh, told RIA Novosti.
“He was never likely himself to admit responsibility. It is possible, though unlikely, that his absence from the scene might give others the courage to speak up about his involvement,” Black added.
“But I think we will just be left with what evidence already exists, particularly the $10million payment from Iran into the PFLP-GC's coffers a few days after 21 December 1988,” Black said.
Jibril and the PFLP-GC has long been associated with the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988 that killed 270 people, despite the West officially blaming Libya for the attack.
Black told RIA Novosti that many Western and Middle Eastern sources believe the PFLP-GC did not play a significant role in the struggle for Palestinian rights.
“There are those (in the West and in the Middle East) who think that Jibril and the PFLP-GC were never really important figures in the Palestinian struggle: good at raking in funds but leaving the fighting to others,” Black said.
Last year the Palestinian National Council announced it would expel Jibril over his role in the Syrian civil war with one PFLP officials quoted as saying, “Jibril does not even belong to the Palestinian Left. He is closer to the extremist right-wing groups than to revolutionary leftist ones.”
As yet there has been no official confirmation that Jibril has been killed, but Robert Black, who is a leading expert on the Lockerbie bombing, told RIA Novosti his death will not bring the public any closer to the truth about who was responsible for the worst terrorist attack in British history.
[I am informed by RIA Novosti foreign affairs correspondent Mark Hirst that the PFLP-GC press office has told the news agency’s Moscow desk that Jibril is still alive and not wounded. He remarks that the picture is confusing given the conflicting reports, although Jewish Press is reporting his death.]