Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Marwan Khreesat, Swissair 330 and Pan Am 103

[The following is the text of an e-mail from Dr Jim Swire arising out of a discussion with Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer (author of the Diary of a Vengeance Foretold series of articles on Lockerbie) about the bombing of Swissair flight 330 in 1970.]

If Swissair was a Khreesat bomb, I think the flight time would be around 35-40 minutes from take-off. There is also a flight which flew for 7 minutes before an IED went off, that was in the 70s I believe. That was interesting because the baro-switches took about 7 minutes to switch 'on'. Presumably the PFLP-GC soon realised that they needed the Baro switch to start a timer going, to lengthen the flight time, instead of firing the detonator directly; so they started manufacturing their crude analogue 'ice cube' timers in Damascus, as explained to the court by Herr Gobel.

That then meant a total flight time of around 35-40 minutes as at Lockerbie, since all the ice cube timers that Gobel knew of ran for about 30 minutes. The court heard the report from Marshman of his interview with Khreesat, who declined to appear in person (or maybe was ordered not to). Marshman claimed that Khreesat told him that he had rendered all his devices inert, claiming that this meant it was unlikely that one of his IEDs had caused Lockerbie. In its summing up the court never commented on the evidence of Herr Gobel that the BKA explosives unit had lost an officer when a Khreesat bomb was being dismantled and exploded in his face.

Curious kind of harmlessness.

I was never convinced that their Lordships understood the mechanism of Khreesat's devices. Technology is not their thing perhaps. At the first appeal I think Lord Osborne suggested that the break-in was too long before Lockerbie to be likely to be relevant. In fact, such a delay was classic for the use of a Khreesat IED, which were perfectly fitted to the 'break-in-and-then-wait-a-bit' scenario. The use of the baro switch to start off the timer was designed with exactly that sort of scenario in mind: the latent period could be anything you liked, weeks or months if required, since no battery power at all was required until 7 minutes after take-off, when the timer was started by the baro switch.

As you know a fully armed Khreesat device could not have been flown in from Frankfurt, since there was no time to arm one if it had arrived on PA103A, which was late that night. Any terrorist worth his salt would be reluctant to fiddle with someone else's IED either.

It therefore seems to me that the IED was a Khreesat model and brought, fully armed and in its suitcase overland to Heathrow through the break-in the night before Lockerbie, and probably left with a message for the IranAir guys at Heathrow to slip into Bedford's baggage container, where he saw it, well before the Frankfurt flight had even landed at Heathrow.on the 21st.

Khreesat seems so central to what really happened: his unique IED was a perfect fit for Lockerbie.

Also don't forget that the BKA arrested him in 'Autumn Leaves' with a completed IED in the boot (=US trunk) of his car, yet after a phone call to Amman he was released, and never charged with plotting to blow up an aircraft.

To accept the interview hearsay evidence from a US officer (Marshman), knowing that Khreesat commanded such significance that he was fully protected from German law, (indicating his usefulness to Western intelligence services) was one of the more obvious naivities of the Zeist court.

Even the introduction of PT35B, the timer circuit board fragment into the chain of 'evidence' seemed directed at ensuring that no one would be so foolish as to imagine that a Khreesat device had been used.

The one thing they could not interfere with was the fact of the flight time.

How did they engineer that the break-in was concealed from the trial court till after the verdict? Even then the world only learned of it because of (the late) Manly's incredulity that his discovery had been ignored by the court.

The Scottish police working on the HOLMES computer system of the Met simply must have known about the break-in. It appears that the Crown Office did not know, since they have committed themselves in writing tp me that they did not know. Iain McKie has no difficulty believing that the break-in evidence was suppressed because it did not fit the favoured theory about Malta and Libya.

I don't understand why Khreesat had to be protected in this way, unless it was just that he was inconvenient to the Malta/Libya fable. Trouble is the 38 minute flight time makes no sense unless it was a Khreesat IED, which explains it so neatly.


  1. As regards the reason for the extra time lag (the capacitor discharge) added after the crucial height was reached, this has been explained elsewhere.

    Some airports had taken to combating the simple barometric devices (no extra time lag) by putting suspect luggage through vacuum chambers where the pressure was artificially lowered to simulate the ascent. A simple barometric device would explode in the vacuum chamber, thus saving the flight. The timers were added to prevent this, given that airports weren't going to hold such luggage in the vacuum chamber for half an hour or more.

    I have read no account of the use of such a vacuum chamber at Frankfurt, or at Heathrow for that matter, but it seems that the potential use of such a safety screen was the reason for the capacitor timer being added to the device.

  2. I don't understand why Khreesat had to be protected in this way, unless it was just that he was inconvenient to the Malta/Libya fable.

    Let's just speculate for a bit. Supposing it was the other way around. Suppose the Malta/Libya fable was concocted in order to protect Khreesat (and others)?

    Khreesat was working for Jordanian intelligence. Supposedly making dud bombs, but they weren't dud. Triple agent? But western intelligence seems to have believed he was merely a double agent, on their side. Many have inferred that as a Jordanian asset, Khreesat was de facto a CIA asset. And maybe he wasn't the only one.

    What if a thorough investigation of what was going on within the PFLP-GC would have uncovered significant CIA infiltration and involvement in their activities? Maybe an operation intended to spike the guns of the revenge attack for the Vincennes incident they were all so convinced was coming from that direction. And yet the bomb still got through. (Well, Khreesat was supposed to be making dud bombs, but they weren't dud....)

    What sort of negligence, unjustified risk-taking, incompetence or whatever might have come to light? Negligence the CIA were not prepared to answer for?

    Tam Dalyell, of course, thinks the bomb was allowed through deliberately, his "Faustian bargain" theory, whereby the CIA agreed to sacrifice one airliner on condition that Iran stopped at one. However, such an extreme suggestion is not necessary for there still to be a lot going on in relation to the PFLP-GC that the CIA really, really didn't want coming before a court.

  3. Fooling the first bomb-probe is an old idea. I recall reading about WW2 sea- and railway-mines that would not trigger before the third ship or waggon passed. As the bad guys (i.e. the Germans, of course) would often load the first carrier with captives.

    Thanks for explaining why a second timer would be needed at all. I was wondering what would be wrong in simply detonating whenever the plane had reached a considerable hight.

    But ice-cube timers, as de Braeckeleer mentions, won't do it.

    If it is not just a blunder then more explanation is needed.

    Ice-cube timers are based on the melting of ice-cubes, releasing some switch when the ice disappears.

    But from the moment you put the ice-cube in the timer it will "run" (= ice will melt), and will not wait for another (e.g. barometric) timer to trigger its delaying function.

    I.e., the construction mentioned by de Braeckeleer is worthless.

    (Unless of course the barometric timer would turn off a fridge that the ice-cubes were placed in. :-)

    Where are we now? If a barometric device alone can not justify the time of the 103-explosion then we need to provide a plausible other method for an added delay, or to drop the barometric idea.

    Not that it is too hard to construct such a device. Easiest is probably to have the barometric device releasing a small amount of weak acid that would then dissolve another wire. This is much more predictable than melting ice, and such a method was used for timers during ww2.

    But without evidence that anything similar was practised it is pure speculation.

    Here is a ice-cube timer used to fire a camera:


  4. Heureka! I've got it!!

    The tape recorders of the time had an auto-stop function, releasing the play button when the tape ran out. It was all very mechanical.

    So it is as easy as this:

    Connect the recorder's play-mechanism to an small electrical switch, so that the switch is "off" when "Play" is pressed down, "on" when released.

    Rewire the batteries for the tape-recorder to go through the baro-device.
    Now, until low pressure is reached, the recorder will not be running.

    Put a rewound tape in the tape-recorder, and press down the play-button. Click.
    Now it is time to connect the bomb to the switch mentioned in (1) and go pack the suitcase.

    - - -

    When altitude is reached, the baro-device will supply power to the tape-recorder. The tape will start running, and run for half an hour (if chosing the C-60 tape). When it reaches the end the "Play" button is realeased and triggers the bomb.

    It is a perfect method. Reliable, precise and simple, needing no furhter components that we not already know were avaiable. Merely a small switch and a tape.

    That's why a tape-recorder was the perfect choice.

  5. SM's tape-recorder delayed barometrically-triggered detonation seems to fit the evidence perfectly, especially since the IED was alleged to have been installed in a Toshiba RT-SF 16 Bombeat radio cassette player.

    As regards Marwan Khreesat, this narrative is from The Maltese Double Cross: "In April 1989, four months after the destruction of Pan Am Clipper Maid of the Seas, six months after the October arrests of Khreesat and Dalkamoni, the German police raid 16 Isarstrasse in Neuss, where Hashem Abassi lived. That raid will lead to the discovery of three other Khreesat-manufactured bombs concealed in electronic devices in cold storage at a vege stand owned by Abassi. A fourth bomb is never found and there are rumours of a fifth. These bombs are so sophisticated the top German bomb expert is killed trying to disarm one. The German government will never request the extradition of Marwan Khreesat. The Scottish Police will never be allowed to talk to Khreesat. Nor will the Scottish Police ever be told the details of what Khreesat told the FBI Supervisory Agent Tom Thurman, Special Agent Edward Marshman when the FBI talked to him on November 12 and 13, 1989."

    It was of course the FBI's Tom Thurman who fabricated the timer fragment evidence against Libya in respect of both Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772.

  6. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011, doc. nr.1956.rtf. (Google Translation, German/English):

    A "bomb bag" brand "Samsonite" was demonstrably not from feeder flight
    PA-103/A from Frankfurt transfed to the main-flight PA-103 at London Heathrow.

    The container AVE 4041 PA for main-flight PA-103 was on 21 December 1988 around 17:00 clock, between the parking area K16 on tarmac near the departing flight PA-103, parking at K14.
    John Bedford was a Pan Am luggage loader at the airport Heathrow. Bedford selected and was responsible on this time for the initial loading of luggage container AVE 4041 PA, from which the blast would later originate.
    Only two INTERLINE suitcases of "Samsonite" (not from Frankfurt) were seen inside, destined for container AVE 4041 PA, BEFORE the ONLINE luggage from Germany flight
    PA-103/A ARRIVED !
    (Bedford statement to Detective Constable Adrian Dixon, January 9, 1989).

    From the feeder flight PA-103/A of Frankfurt was subsequently only ONE (1) online luggage brand "Samsonite", from Pan Am *pilot John Hubbard, in the container AVE 4041 loaded, which contained no explosives ! This fact proves that the "Samsonite suitcase bomb" has been smuggle sth in, at the London Heathrow Airport !!!
    * (had 2 bags, only one of which was in the bomb container AVE 4041 PA)

    MEBO Continuation down >>>

  7. MEBO Continuation >>>

    An Police Report (DW-749/G3) of Douglas Roxburgh, a policeman for Dumfries & Galloway Constabulatory next described the procedure for storing and inventorying items retrieved from ground in Lockerbie:
    William Williamsen, a Dtective Inspector then testified that PanAm John Hubbard's bag was found in Lockerbie with a rush tag on it. The police concluded it was in the luggage container which contained the bomb bag (AVE 4041 PA), but have no blast damage !
    Other bags also identified as having come from Frankfurt in AVE 4041 PA and recovered at Lockerbie:
    1 bag of Ms. Susan Costa; 1 bag belonging to Adolf Weinacker; (neither of these persons were passengers);
    1 bag from Francis Boyer; 1 bag from Patricia Mary Coyle (had 2 bags, one of which was in the bomb container AVE 4041 PA); Passenger Karen Nooan had checked in 3 bags, only 1 bag of which was in pallet 4041; Finally, the testmony showed that Thomas E. Walker had 2 suitcases in Container 4041.

    Facts: no second online *Samsonite" suitcase from the shuttle PA-103/A (arriving from Frankfurt) was *unloaded in the container AVE-4041 PA in Heathrow !

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. URL:

  8. SM, there's no need to speculate. It is known exactly how these things work. They had examples seized from the PFLP-GC to exxamine, after all. There is no ice involved, the name is simply because the capacitors look a bit like ice-cubes.

    They are capacitors. The capacitor is connected to the barometer. Once the pressure drops low enough, the trigger activates the capacitor to start charging. This has the advantage, as noted above, that the device has a long shelf-life at ground level, as the battery is not being drained.

    The capacitor charges, taking its power from the battery. This takes a fixed amount of time depending on the actual capacitor used, but within this time there is some variability depending on how long it is since the last time it was charged (for testing), and the temperature and so on. Once the capacitor is charged, it discharges, and it is that discharge that triggers the detonator.

    It appears that the tape transport of the radio-cassette players had to be removed from the housing, in order to fit in the Semtex, so the tape-play mechanism was not available to be used as a timer.

  9. It appears that the tape transport of the radio-cassette players had to be removed from the housing, in order to fit in the Semtex, so the tape-play mechanism was not available to be used as a timer.

    Could Rolfe please provide chapter and verse re the "capacitor" idea, and on exactly why the tape transport had to be removed from the radio-cassette before insertion of the Semtex?

  10. Regarding the fact that the "ice-cube" is a capacitor, it's all over the bloody internet, Patrick. It was gone into in some detail at Zeist, and Jim Swire has built his own versions as demo models. It's even known what different time-set models the PFLP-GC had in their possession, how the time of any one would vary depending on various factors, where they got them and how much they paid for them. I would have thought this was something anyone who had made any study at all of the Lockerbie incident would have known as a matter of course.

    As regards removing the tape transport, the mock-ups of the Toshiba presented in court have the Semtex where the tape transport would go. Although having said that, Rainer Gobel did not describe the tape transport being absent when he described the device seized from the PFLP-GC in the Autumn Leaves raid. Nevertheless, the time delay was achieved by the capacitor, not by running a tape.

  11. Strictly, it is an ice-cube timer and relay, which has a capacitor as a passive component. A capacitor on it's own doesn't have the function of dumping the charge to the detonator at a predetermined threshold - it purely stores charge from the battery, which it gets through a series resistor (this sometimes provides the means of varying the timing since it follows a logarithmic function until it reaches the supply voltage).
    Though, I am sure ebol can give his professional advice on this one :)

  12. Thanks for the clarification! :)

  13. I may be wrong but is it correct to say that "Marshmann claimed that Khreesat told him that he had rendered all his devices inert".

    This is what the Judges claimed in their Judgement but did not Khreesat (reportedly) say that because he was under the close supervision of "Abu Elias" he was constrained from rendering them inert and that they were fully functional (as indeed evidenced by the death of the BKA technician) a crime that the German authorities never pursued.

  14. Dr Swire makes a number of good points - what I find inexplicable was that Khreesat was not named in the Special Defense - had he been Marshmann's hearsay evidence to exculpate him could not have been accepted.

    Rolfe finds it difficult to accept Tam Dalyell's suggestion that the bomb was allowed through deliberately to allow Iranian retaliation for the Vincennes Incident and draw a line in the sand. I think on this Mr Dalyell was quite right. Is Rolfe familiar with the Cold War thriller "Fail Safe"?

  15. Oh, Khreesat's devices were lethal, there's no doubt about that. Whether this was by his own will, or because Abu Elias had his beady eye on him, I don't suppose we'll ever know.

    Baz, leaving aside whether or not one can contemplate the idea that western intelligence agencies knew in advance that PA103 was going to explode, and allowed it to happen anyway, I do think that if that had all been anticipated in advance, the cover-up operation might have been a lot less chaotic.

  16. Baz said: Dr Swire makes a number of good points - what I find inexplicable was that Khreesat was not named in the Special Defence - had he been Marshmann's hearsay evidence to exculpate him could not have been accepted.

    Equally baffling is why Khreesat's senior FBI interviewer Tom Thurman was not called to give evidence at the Lockerbie trial, considering that in 1994 forensic expert Thurman told The Maltese Double Cross: "On June 15th of 1989, 1990, yeah, 1990, was the day that I made identification. And I knew at that point what it meant. And, because if you will, I'm an investigator as well as a forensic examiner, I knew where that would go. That at the point we had no conclusive proof of the type of timing mechanism that was used in the bombing of 103. When that identification was made of the timer, I knew that we had it."

    Amazingly, Thurman also made the identification of the 'TY' timer fragment which was used to implicate Libya in the 1989 sabotage of UTA Flight 772 over Niger. Yet Thurman's testimony was absent from the Paris Assize Court in 1999 when six Libyans were convicted of the crime in absentia.

    According to French investigative journalist Pierre Péan: "Despite the unambiguous findings of the DCPJ/DST and the Prefecture of Police Crime Lab that the link with Libya had not been established, Bruguière chose to believe the FBI's expert in fabricating evidence, Tom Thurman."

  17. Wow, I need to read this thread many millions of times. I salute all of you who have contributed. It is an aspect of the Lockerbie atrocity where I struggle big-time.

  18. As I pointed out in my article on the bombing of flight UTA 772 at The Masonic Verses at the identification of the fragment of Tai Yuen timer did not link the timer to Libya. One of ther defendants had purchased 100 of these timers. However thousands had been made. In the Lockerbie case it was purported that all MST-13 timers were sold to Libya. Thurman's evidence in the UTA772 case was of no great significance.

    Indeed in the Lockerbie case Thurman's actual or photographic identification of the fragment of MST-13 timer was of no great significance. It was a fragment of MST-13 timer. Whether the exhibit was genuine is another matter.

    It was the suitcase itself lined with Pentrite that was significant as a similar suitcase was in the Libyan's possession.

  19. Baz said: In the Lockerbie case Thurman's actual or photographic identification of the fragment of MST-13 timer was of no great significance. Thurman's evidence in the UTA772 case was of no great significance.

    In fact, baz, the FBI's Thomas Thurman very definitely fabricated the timer fragment evidence against Libya in respect of both PA103 and UT772 (see Pretexts for Operation Odyssey Dawn).

  20. Patrick Haseldine's "reference" is only to his claims. There is not a shred of evidence to support the claim Thurman fabricated the timer fragment evidence against Libya in both the PA103 & UTA772 cases. I see no reason to dispute the accurancy of his identifications.

    As I have pointed out (which Patrick seemsunable to grasp) the timer fragment evidence in the UTA case did not implicate Libya in the same was that the evidence in the Lockerbie case purportedly did.

    If you are tried in absentia in a French Court and don't challenge the prosecution evidence then I suspect you are likely to be convicted.

    However this thread was about Marwan Khreesat not Tom Thurman.

  21. Baz said: There is not a shred of evidence to support the claim Thurman fabricated the timer fragment evidence against Libya in both the PA103 & UTA772 cases.

    This extract from Pierre Péan's 2001 book Les preuves trafiquées du terrorisme libyen provides some of the evidence to support the claim: "Unbeknown to Bruguière and to Claude Calisti, an expert from the Prefecture of Police Crime Laboratory, Tom Thurman was working on photos of all the UTA wreckage found in a 50 sq km area of the Ténéré Desert in Niger. In Summer 1991, from this evidence which had been kept under special judicial seal No 4, Thurman apparently discovered a small piece of printed circuit board, green in colour and measuring 4 sq cm, bearing the marking TY. Without informing their French counterparts, the FBI detectives then began to follow the TY trail. The FBI quickly concluded that Libya had indeed purchased the TY timer, which Thurman had decided was the retarding agent in the Samsonite luggage on board the DC-10. Thurman had thus 'discovered' the scientific evidence implicating Libya in both the Lockerbie and Ténéré incidents."

    Further detailed supporting evidence can be found here.

    This thread is indeed about Marwan Khreesat who was interviewed by Tom Thurman (and Edward Marshmann) on 12 and 13 November 1989.

  22. That further detailed supporting evidence can in fact be found here.

  23. MISSION 'UTA-772' Affair, doc. nr.1206.rtf.

    The fabrication of the wrong evidence against Libya:
    Suddenly Investigators claimed to have found amongst the debris a small piece of green colored printed circuit, similar as in the Lockerbie-Affair, after French paratroopers had scoured the desert for several thousand pieces of debris, which were scattered over 50 square miles.
    But where did this tiny circuit board fragment come from?

    FBI expert Thomas James Thurman who was involved in the French experts investigation, concentrated his attention again on the printed circuit that triggered the bomb, because it seemed to have identical distortions as the timer allegedly used for the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie. In both cases a tiny fragment of a circuit print was found, -- what an accident --, and in both cases this green colored tiny fragments were linked to Libya by criminal manipulations!
    As we will see later Thurmans's lab was already in possession of such timers. In the meantime Thomas Thurman was suspended from the FBI after his laboratory had falsified forensic evidence in various cases.
    Thomas Thurman was for good reasons never summoned as a witness, neither in the "Lockerbie case" nor in the "UTA 772-case".
    The french investigative journalist Pierre Péan and writer of the book "Manipulations Africains" visit me (2001) at MEBO Ltd. in Zurich. He told me that it was first forseen also a Mebo MST-3 timerfragment for the UTA 772 affair, then FBI Expert Thurmann exchange to a "TY-MING-YONG/GRASSLIN" timer-fragment (were also never investigated by traces of explosives residue) !
    For more detail information, visit my webpage on URL:

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO LTD. Switzerland.

  24. There is not a shred of evidence to support the claim Thurman fabricated the timer fragment evidence against Libya in both the PA103 & UTA772 cases.

    I don't know anything about the UTA772 case, but I think there's a reasonable inferential case to be made that Thurman was involved in fabricating the timer fragment in the PA103 case.

    If it was fabricated, and I think there is pretty compelling evidence that it was, then somebody fabricated it. Given Thurman's later involvement in identifying it, and his conduct at that time giving rise to serious suspicions that he knew exactly what it was even before he set eyes on the photograph, I'd say he (and "Orkin") are the top candidates.