The takedown of Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie, Scotland was a catastrophe that the US intelligence community could see coming for half a year and no one took the necessary steps to prevent it.
There were 270 people who died in that crash Dec 21, 1988.
On July 3 1988, during a war between Iran and Iraq, a US warship, the Vincennes, sailing in the war zone, shot down an Iranian passenger plane killing all 290 aboard. It should not have happened. It was an unfortunate mistake.
Khomeini, the Iranian leader, immediately issued Iran’s response, which had the force of a binding religious edict, “an eye for an eye.”
Ali Mohtashemipur, the Iranian interior minister, offered $10 million to arch terrorist Ahmed Jibril, head of the PFLP-GC, to blow up an American passenger plane.
Israel knew Mohtashemipur well. He founded Hezbollah in 1982. One of their first major acts was to level the Israeli military headquarters at Tyre killing 91. Yitzhak Shamir, when he came into office, ordered the Mossad to kill him. They send him a holy book, it exploded and stripped away an arm, but he survived. And here he was again.
From the time the Iranians invited Jibril to a meeting July 8 in Teheran until the end, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), a monitoring agency for the US intelligence community, was reporting what the Iranians and Jibril were discussing, the names of the people at their meetings, the complete package, as it happened.
These reports were not released to the public for years, but they demonstrate that anyone who read them was never in the dark. It was like watching a gang preparing a major bank robbery step-by-step.
One example. Rashid Mehmet, a Turkish engineer and Hezbollah member, who worked at the Frankfurt airport in conjunction with two other Turks, attended planning meetings. Those three put the bomb on the plane. The day the plane went down Mehmet flew to Cyprus to make his getaway and was congratulated by the Iranian chargé d’affaires there for having “performed his mission.”
Those Turks were never arrested. James Shaughnessy, lawyer for Pam Am, asked why none of the numerous Turks who worked at Frankfurt airport were investigated. It appears that no one ever read the FBIS reports even after the fact.
The conspirators also announced with the sound of trumpets the day that they decided to act, Dec 15. There was a big pow-wow in Beirut under the cover of a celebration of the Palestinian cause, where they concluded the meeting by saying the “ordained revenge for America” is nigh.
Here were the consequences. Khaled Jaafar, an affluent 20-year-old from Beirut whose father lived in Dearborn, Mich, and he had American citizenship, was tasked with transporting the bomb to the plane. He had been living with a PLPF-GC cell in Dortmund since Nov 8 awaiting the call, but on Dec 14 he booked a flight to Detroit to go home for the holidays.
The next day a Hezbollah operative living in that house with him, Naim Ghannam, got a call from Beirut and he would change Jaafar’s booking to another plane going to Detroit, Pam Am 103. They did it through a travel agent in Dearborn, who also seems to have been a member of Hezbollah.
The FBIS report says that they chose Pan Am 103 after the Iranian embassy in Beirut confirmed that five CIA agents were on that plane. Other sources say they were tipped off by what is described as a “double agent.” He apparently lived in Beirut, his identity was known, and he was never apprehended either.
Jaafar was an experienced world traveller, with never any issues in flying, but in Frankfurt he knew he was about to die. Yasmin Siddique, the woman behind him in line, who would get off the plane at London, could not take her eyes off him. He was having a nervous breakdown right before her eyes.
None of the several people at the Dortmund cell were arrested although the owner of the house was brought to the show trial of the Libyan al-Megrahi, served up as a scapegoat, to testify for what that was worth. The travel agent’s connection to terrorists was exposed by Debbie Schlussel, a nationally known journalist who lives in Michigan. He was never questioned about his role in enabling the Pan Am attack.
The PFLP-GC at that point in time was a large and far-flung organization with bomb makers and activists throughout Europe including Germany, Sweden, and Yugoslavia, as well as the Middle East and Asia, and they were killing Americans in Europe as well as Israelis here. This was the Cold War and those in Yugoslavia especially were given free rein to do whatever they wanted
The PFLP-GC boss in Germany was Dalkamoni. Israel knew him well. Years before he came into the Galilee carrying a bomb to blow up a power plant, it exploded prematurely and took off a leg. He spent 10 years in prison in Israel before released in a prisoner exchange. In October the Mossad notified German intelligence that the PLFP-GC was up to something and they arrested Dalkamoni and 15 others in a roundup called the Autumn Leaves. Dalkamoni was the main planner at that point, but the PLFP-GC did not miss a beat.
The US investigation got off to a rousing start. Within six months Dan Rather was reporting coast-to-coast that the planner for the Pan-Am attack was named Dalkamoni and the plane was brought down by the PLFP-GC.
What happened? Tom Thurman happened. He was a fraudster posing as an explosives expert in the FBI. He would be banned by an inspector-general in 1997 from giving expert testimony having being found to have no scientific background, just made stuff up. But in 1990 he went into attorney-general Bill Barr’s office and fingered Libyans. For the next 30 years the investigation turned into a reprise of the Keystone Kops running hither and yon nabbing Libyans, who had nothing to do with anything.
Here’s what actually happened. Jibril turned over the implementation to his nephew Basel Bushnaq, 25, head of his military. That position Jibril liked to keep in the family. In 2002 his son Jihad was head of his military and Israel assassinated him.
The Syrian-born Bushnaq was also an American citizen, expert in both airport security and bomb making. Both the CIA and the PLO, which also did an investigation — anything to embarrass their bitter rival — named Bushnaq as the bomb maker. He purchased the detonator on the Beirut black market for $60,000.
He went by the name of Abu Elias. The CIA went looking for him under than name and could not find him. Bushnaq is an ethnic Bosnian. The word “Bushnaq” means Bosnian.
The FBI and Scotland Yard interrogated him under his American name Basel Bushnaq. They asked for him for his Syrian passport. He said he had misplaced it. You would too if the name there was Abu Elias or perhaps Khaisar Haddad, another moniker he sometimes used.
We know that Abu Elias is Basel Bushnaq because five former associates of Jibril told that to the defence team of the Libyan scapegoat al-Megrahi in 2000.
Here is the situation today. Bushnaq murdered 190 Americans. That’s the record for an American killing Americans exceeding Timothy McVeigh’s 168. He is still walking free.
It will take a call to arms to get this guy under lock and key. But it’s not too late.