Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Finger of blame for Lockerbie pointed at American citizen

[This is the headline over an article by Derek Lambie published in the Sunday Express on this date in 2007.  It reads as follows:]

In a sensational twist, Abu Elias, currently living near Washington DC, will be named with others believed to be in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) as part of a terror cell behind the Pan Am disaster.

Lawyers claim the radical Palestinian organisation was hired for $10million to avenge the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by the US five months earlier.

Two weeks ago Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, 55, was given the right to appeal his conviction.  Elias - who has a new identity the Sunday Express cannot divulge - is the nephew of the terror group's leader, Ahmed Jibril, the man believed to be the mastermind of the bombing.

The Sunday Express understands new documents - likely to form the basis for al-Megrahi's appeal - show the American was described as "the primary target" early in the investigation.  They also state he conspired with Mohammed Abu Talb, an Egyptian named by Dumfries and Galloway Police as the initial chief suspect.

Lockerbie relatives last night said they are more convinced than ever that the PFLP-GC are the perpetrators of the atrocity. Dr Jim Swire, who lost daughter Flora in the disaster, said: "My view has always been that Abu Talb was involved but that he was not the actual bomber. This development is encouraging and opens new avenues."

Pan Am Flight 103 was just 38 minutes into its journey from London to New York when it was blown up.  Investigators concluded a Semtex bomb was in a cassette player rigged with a Swiss electronic timing device.  Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2002 following a £75million trial at a Scottish Court, at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, although his co-accused Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima was cleared.

But the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) has identified six grounds where it believes a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, with its main focus on the evidence from Tony Gauci, who said  al-Megrahi had come into his shop in Malta and bought clothes found at the scene of the disaster.

With the decision, the finger of blame is once again being pointed at the PFLP-GC. Jibril was suspected of organising the bombing on behalf of Iran as revenge on the US for shooting down Iran Air 655 over the Persian Gulf in 1988.

Evidence submitted to the SCCRC named Jibril, now 79, as the mastermind, with his nephew working with Abu Talb, a member of a splinter group and later jailed for life in Sweden for a bomb attack that left one person dead.

The defence case included a US Defence Intelligence Agency cable from September 24, 1989, which states: "The bombing of the Pan Am flight was conceived, authorised and financed by Ali-Akbar (Mohtashemi-Pur), the former Iranian Minister of Interior.

"The operation was contracted to Ahmad Jabril (sic)... for $1million. The remainder was to be paid after successful completion of the mission."

Documents viewed by the Sunday Express allege the plot began when a man named Mobdi Goben supplied material for the bomb to Hafez Dalkamoni, the leader of the PFLP-GC's European cell. He was then introduced to the alleged bomb maker Marwan Khreesat, by Elias, who has both Syrian and American passports.

Very little is known about Elias, but the defence insists he was paid in travellers' cheques by terror leader Dalkamoni in Cyprus, before he took delivery of the bomb in Frankfurt.  Elias was identified as the key suspect although it was never explored in court, even after documents about his role suddenly emerged during the trial.

The Goben Memorandum, said to have been written by a dying member of the PFLP-GC, was handed to the Lord Advocate detailing the group's activities and a confession about Elias. Elias was concerning the FBI before the bombing and was quizzed about cheques deposited in his bank. In August 1988 he met with agents, who knew he was Jibril's nephew. While the SCCRC said there is dubiety over whether Gauci had correctly identified al-Megrahi, documents show the shopkeeper had no such problems identifying Abu Talb.

Despite the evidence, the investigation took an unexpected twist and the Syrian terror group's suspected role in the disaster was dropped. Meanwhile, it emerged Talb could be brought to trial in Scotland because he does not have lifetime immunity from prosecution as had been believed. During al-Megrahi's trial there was a widespread belief he had been given Crown protection for giving evidence. However, the Crown Office yesterday confirmed he does not have immunity.


  1. In my opinion the man code-named "Abu Elias" has to be the prime suspect as the man who put the bomb on the plane at Heathrow. Adam Larsen once named the person he believed was "Abu Elias", but I'm unclear whether it has been proved that he was right about this.

  2. Hi Rolfe,

    Did Adam name the same person as Christine Graham? I might be remembering wrong, but didn't someone get named in Holyrood, which didn't go down too well with that person.


  3. Here's the link to Adam's blog. The article with the name is still there.