Sunday, 23 August 2015

Abu Nidal 'behind Lockerbie bombing'

[This is the headline over a report published on this date in 2002 on the BBC News website. It reads in part:]

A former aide of Abu Nidal says the militant Palestinian leader, who was found dead in Iraq this week, was behind the 1988 bombing of a passenger plane over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

In an interview, Atef Abu Bakr says Abu Nidal told a meeting of his Fatah-Revolutionary Council that he had organised the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people.

He told London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat that Abu Nidal had threatened to kill anyone who revealed his responsibility for the attack.

A special Scottish court in the Netherlands convicted a former Libyan government agent, Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, of the Lockerbie bombing and sentenced him to life in prison.

Mr Abu Bakr, a former spokesman for the group, split with Abu Nidal in 1989, a year after the bombing.

"Abu Nidal said during an inner-circle meeting of the leadership of the Revolutionary Council, 'I will tell you something very important and serious, the reports which link the Lockerbie act to others are false reports. We are behind what happened'," Mr Abu Bakr is quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Abu Nidal told the meeting that if anyone leaked what he had said, "I will kill him even if he is in the arms of his wife".

Al-Hayat did not make clear when or where the meeting took place, or who attended apart from Abu Nidal.

A senior British parliamentarian has urged the Foreign Office to investigate the claims "as a matter of the utmost urgency".

Tam Dalyell, a left-wing Labour MP, has long argued that the Libyans were not responsible for the attack and that it was carried out by Abu Nidal.

"If these allegations are true they blow everything relating to Lockerbie out of the water, including the trial in Holland," he said.

The group led by Abu Nidal, one of the world's most wanted men before Iraqi authorities announced that he had killed himself in his Baghdad apartment, has been blamed for attacks in which hundreds were killed or wounded in the 1970s and 1980s.

Abu Nidal set up his headquarters in the Libyan capital Tripoli in 1987. He was put under house arrest when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi came under pressure to crack down on militants after the Lockerbie bombing.

Mr Abu Bakr has given a series of exclusive interviews to the Saudi-owned, London-based al-Hayat since the first accounts of Abu Nidal's death emerged.

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