[This is the headline over a report published in The Guardian on this date in 2002. It reads as follows:]
The Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal admitted to a meeting of his most trusted colleagues that he was behind the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing and the culprits were not Libyans, it is claimed today in a leading Arabic newspaper.
In an interview with the London daily, Al-Hayat, a former colleague, Atef Abu Bakr, says Nidal made the confession to the inner circle of his revolutionary council some time before his death earlier this week.
Bakr, once a politburo member of Nidal's Fatah-Revolutionary Council, told the paper that Nidal had said: "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."
According to Bakr, Nidal threatened anyone who leaked what he said with death, "even if he is in the arms of his wife".
Last night a spokesman for Al Hayat confirmed that the interview with Bakr was conducted some time before Nidal's death.
The Lockerbie disaster happened when a New York-bound Pan Am plane blew up over the town in Scotland, in December 1988, killing 259 passengers and crew, and 11 local residents. A Scottish court sitting in Holland convicted a former Libyan agent, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, over the bombing and in January 2001 gave him a life sentence.
The group led by Nidal, once one of the world's most wanted men, has been blamed for a series of horrific attacks in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Iraqi authorities have claimed that Nidal, found dead in his Baghdad apartment, committed suicide. Members of the Fatah-Revolutionary Council, better known as the Abu Nidal organisation, said he committed suicide as he was suffering from cancer.
Nidal set up his headquarters in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in 1987. He was put under house arrest when Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, came under pressure to crack down on militants after the Lockerbie bombing.
Bakr and another dissident split from Nidal's group in late 1989, almost a year after the bombing. After the attack, Bakr was quoted as extending condolences to victims on behalf of Nidal's group.
Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow, has long maintained that Nidal was to blame, and not Libyans. Last night he said: "If true, this is a hugely important development. If he has said that no one else had anything to do with it, where does that leave Mr al-Megrahi? I believe the Libyans had nothing to do with it. This is one hell of a thing."
He said that the Foreign Office must now investigate Bakr's claims "as a matter of the utmost urgency".
He added: "If these allegations are true they blow everything relating to Lockerbie out of the water, including the trial in Holland."
[RB: Further information about Abu Nidal’s alleged involvement in Lockerbie can be found here.]