Tuesday 14 June 2016

Abu Nidal group member claims responsibility for Lockerbie

[What follows is the text of a report published in the Los Angeles Times on this date in 1994:]

An accused Palestinian assassin confessed Monday to the murder of 270 people, stunning a Beirut courtroom with an unsubstantiated claim that in 1988, he personally blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Lebanese prosecutors said they will investigate Youssef Shaaban's claim but stressed that they doubted his confession. It reportedly came after the 29-year-old follower of terrorist leader Abu Nidal denied charges that he shot and killed a Jordanian diplomat near the diplomat's Beirut home in January.
The Lockerbie bombing, one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in recent years, remains a major international political issue. The American and British governments initially blamed Iran for the crime, then Syria, and finally insisted that two suspected senior Libyan intelligence agents were behind the bombing. They persuaded the UN Security Council to punish Libya with international sanctions in an attempt to force it to turn over the two men to stand trial in the United States or Britain.
On Monday, the lawyer for the two Libyan suspects -- Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah -- applauded Shaaban's confession in Beirut, asserting it proved his clients' innocence. But British and American officials insisted that Libya still bears the blame for a bombing that stunned the world.
American counterterrorism officials said Monday that they had never ruled out a role by others besides the Libyans. "We're going to follow up very hard on all leads, including this one, just to make sure we've left nothing unturned," a senior official said.

But counterterrorism experts, public and private, expressed deep suspicions. "There are enough inconsistencies to make us doubt him," a senior US official said.

Shaaban would have been only 23 at the time of the 1988 bombing. "That's fairly young to have put together a complicated bomb and such a complicated operation all by himself," the official added.

Also, Shaaban's claim does not conform with Abu Nidal's usual tactics. "He never went in for aviation terrorism, especially anything as sophisticated as this," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist at the RAND Corp.

American officials and terrorism specialists suggest that Shaaban's claim may be part of a Libyan campaign to shift the blame from the two Libyans indicted by the United States and Scotland and, in turn, to get painful international economic sanctions lifted.

"It's part of an operation. It's deliberately exploiting the use of someone already going down for another crime -- in this case the assassination of a Jordanian diplomat -- to accept responsibility for something that he could not possibly have done," said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA terrorism specialist.

Relatives of the bombing victims were skeptical as well.

Jim Swire -- chief spokesman and activist for families of British passengers killed when the Pan Am Boeing 747 exploded en route to New York over the Scottish village, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 more on the ground -- said Shaaban's assertion "should be regarded with grave suspicion."

"It could be that he is seeking to attract what terrorists might regard as kudos for the Abu Nidal organization," Swire said, referring to the Revolutionary Council of Fatah founded by the Palestinian activist.

Shaaban's remarks--which the judge ordered stricken as irrelevant to the case, according to Reuters news service--reportedly came after Shaaban denied gunning down Jordan's second-ranking diplomat in Beirut on Jan 29. Shaaban's public trial has become the centerpiece of a Lebanese government campaign to prove that Beirut's decades of lawlessness are at an end.

[RB: The following comments are taken from The Herald’s coverage of this story:]

Yesterday, Mr Alistair Duff, the Edinburgh lawyer who is a member of the Libyans' international defence team headed by Tripoli advocate Dr Ibrahim Legwell, said: ''This is obviously an interesting development. It will be a matter for discussion with Dr Legwell and the rest of the legal team and we will be doing our utmost to investigate the man's claims.

''Once we have discussed it within the legal team then we will see what can be done about interviewing this man. We will obviously be interested in having him properly interviewed. That may mean a member of the legal team from Malta or, perhaps, Germany, travelling to Beirut to see him,'' he added.

However, in the UK, official sources were treating Shaaban's confession with care. A spokesman for the Crown Office in Edinburgh said: ''The Lord Advocate has not seen any evidence relating to the alleged involvement of Youssef Shaaban in the Lockerbie investigation.

''If anyone has any evidence relating to the case they should make it available to the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. The investigation remains open and we will of course look into anything relevant to the case but we cannot comment on any investigative steps which may be taken.''

A spokesman at the Foreign Office in London said: ''As we have said many times in the past, we believe there is a case to be answered in a court in Scotland or the United States by the two Libyans. If anyone has further information which implicates anyone else, this could be brought to the attention of the Lord Advocate in Scotland or the US authorities.''


  1. Yes I have a load of information on the Lockerbie air disaster of the 21st of December 1988 but I am not believed.

    1. Well, you just sit there coming out with a bunch of cryptic, conspiracy-theory-type remarks with no actual content, and intersperse these with statements that are demonstrably factually inaccurate. No wonder people don't believe you - except, I don't know of anything substantial you've ever said, to believe it or not.

  2. The Crown Office response could be an extreme form of sick joke, but of course they were just doggedly following the line they were fed by the CIA. While a person of 23 might have had difficulty doing the whole job he would surely have had the strength and skill to load a suitcase into a baggage container.

  3. Lets see what happens when Khaled Megrahi tries to have the appeal his father was prevented from having and the Lockerbie relatives were also prevented from pursueing. Its going to be a first step to finding out the real truth of WHO really was behind having a bomb planted on Flight 103. It may not be who we have all been lead to believe was behind it. Some really bad people have been at work here.

  4. Dear Professor Robert Black

    MEBO Ltd. intends to organize for Khaled El Megrahi, son of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, an EU-visa, at the Swiss Embassy of Tunis. Mebo is prepared to support a new appeal financially. We would be glad if you could answer the following questions:

    1) Is it legally possible that a swiss lawyer can lodge the appeal, in the Lockerbie case with the Scottish Justiciary in Scotland, on behalf of Khaled El Megrahi (the late father Abdelbaset al Megrahi and Abdelbaset's wife).

    2) Are attested signatures of the eldest son Khaled El Megrahi and the wife of Abdelbaset al Megrahi enough to file an appeal?
    In order to speed up the legal matters it would be appreciated very much if you could reply as soon as possible.
    Best regards
    Edwin Bollier & MEBO Ltd. Webpage: www.lockerbie.ch

    1. Edwin, the first step has to be a further application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. I believe Baset's eldest son and his widow (a) would be regarded as having a legal right to make such an application (particularly if Khaled is the Libyan equivalent of the executor of his father's estate) and (b) if granted a right to appeal by the SCCRC, would be regarded as appropriate persons to represent Baset in the court hearing of the appeal.

      The lawyers involved in any appeal in the High Court of Justiciary would have to be qualified Scottish lawyers. The application to the SCCRC does not technically require to come via a Scottish lawyer. But Khaled has been represented before by a Scottish lawyer who supervised the preparation of the 2014 SCCRC joint application by the Megrahi family and a group of UK Lockerbie relatives, including Dr Jim Swire. That application failed because it was held that the UK relatives had no legitimate interest to make it, and the SCCRC was not convinced at that time that the Megrahi family was genuinely supporting it. If clear Megrahi family support can now be shown, that problem no longer exists. However, it would seem to me to make sense to use the lawyer who was involved before for any new SCCRC application. He has the previous detailed application and all the supporting documentation.

  5. Dear Professor Robert Black
    Many thanks for the helpful information, greetings from Switzerland
    Edwin Bollier & MEBO Ltd