By Roger Cottrell, PhD
Part 3 of the Lockerbie bombing investigation
A little over 30 years ago, on December 21, 1988, a bomb detonated onboard Pan Am 103, The Maid of the Seas, over Lockerbie in Southern Scotland. In all, 243 passengers, mostly American, 16 crew and 11 people on the ground were killed. It was and remains the worst act of mass murder in Scottish legal history.
Thirty years later, as the case against Abdelbaset al Megrahi, the deceased Libyan sanctions buster convicted of the bombing, collapses the question begs to be asked who really bombed the plane and why?
In the previous articles we looked at why Monzer al Kasser wanted to prevent Chuck McKee and his team reaching the US in December 1988 and was prepared to murder 270 people to achieve this goal. We also looked at how al Kasser, as an asset of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Centre, subverted the sting operation that led to Operation Herbstraub (Autumn Leaves) to acquire the bomb needed to carry out the despicable deed.
To understand how Pan Am 103 came to be bombed we have to return to events of October 24, 1988.
Not only had Jordanian agent Marwan Khreesat been unable to introduce “snark” mechanisms into the Toshiba Cassette bombs but the bombs themselves were no longer in his possession.
As a result, the sting operation of which Khreesat was a part was brought forward.
According to the official report of the BKA, Dalkamoni and Khreesat were seen leaving the apartment on IsanStrasse and heading for Dalkamoni’s silver green Ford Talbot.
They then drove to Heffen Strasse where Khreesat, the Jordanian agent, got out of the car to make a phone call.
.Clearly, he was tipping off the BKA and GSG 9 who later swooped on the car.
At this point its worth mentioning both that Monzer al Kasser was based in Spain, where he had masterminded the Achille Lauro hi-jack and that he had already recruited PFLP-GC terrorists to the GAL death squad program, murdering Basque activists in France.
Under a blanket in the boot of Dalkomoni’s car, the police found both Spanish and Syrian passports, as well as a Toshiba Bomb Beat Radio Cassette player.
Two more raids followed, on the flat in Isara Strasse and Ghadafa’s safe house at 28 Sandweg. This revealed what John Ashton has described as a “mini production line” for bomb making. There were electronic components, soldering irons and components for both barometric and time delayed fuses. The BKA and police also found assault rifles, a bazooka, 30 grenades, an RPG launcher, five kilos of military grade Semtex, TNT and 14 sticks of dynamite. Not surprisingly, a police press statement described the haul as the biggest ever in West Germany.
Mohammed Abu Talb and Abu Elias
Based in Sweden, it is likely that Mohammed Abu Talb was key to the GAL death squad program before his recruitment, courtesy of Monzer al Kasser, by the Counter Terrorism Committee of the CIA. As such he would have played a key role in the murder of Basque dissidents on French soil. It is also likely that, along with fellow members of the PFLP-GC in Europe, he saw this as an easy source of revenue for the cash strapped and increasingly isolated terrorist group. Once committed, however, it was much easier to draw him in. Prior to Operation Autumn Leaves, for example, Abu Taub had been linked to the bombing of an El Al Office and a synagogue. This crass act of anti-Semitic violence was clearly intended to discredit the Palestinian struggle after the EU had recognized the PLO, after the 19th Palestine National Congress had proposed its two nations solution to the Middle Eastern crisis and after the Intifada had started in the occupied territories themselves.
While Mohammed Abu Talb almost certainly stole one of Marwan Khreesat’s bombs, for Monzer al Kasser, it was likely to have been the elusive Abu Elias, whom Khreesat never met, who carried it to London. His actual identity remains something of a mystery but he could well have been the Christian nephew of Ahmed Jibril himself. That said, he was almost certainly also an asset of the CIA, as was Mohammed Abyu Talb, and most definitely of Monzer al Kasser, Once in London, he passed the bomb either to a member of the Abu Nidal group (if John Banks is telling the truth) or an agent of BOSS (if John Banks is covering for himself). Whatever, and irrespective of the break in at Heathrow on the night of December 20th, someone had plenty of time to place the bomb, in its Sansomite suitcase, in the luggage pen at Heathrow while John Bedford and his supervisor were on their lunch break. This much has been painstakingly demonstrated by expert Morag Kerr and is also backed up by John Bedford’s own affidavit. However, what is curious is that none of this evidence was cited even by members of the defence team for Abdelbaset al Megrahi at the juryless trial in Camp Zest, the Netherlands, in 1998.
Critics of my theory might ask, as did an executive at Scottish Television in 2016, why al Kasser didn’y simply get Abu nidal to bomb the plane in any case. The obvious answer to that one is that Aby Nidal didn’t have a bomb maker of Marwan Khreesat’s sophistication.
Although they do not explicitly argue that Operation Autumn Leaves was the result of a CIA sting operation, Ashton and Ferguson do point to important discrepancies in what happened after Dalkamoni, Khreesat and the others were arrested. In particular, David Carlson and David Evans, on CNN, asked why details of the terrorist conspiracy foiled in Neuss weren’t passed on to Pan A, Security before the bombing on Pan Am 103 on December 21, 1988. This was in spite of warnings issued by both the DIA and US Military Command concerning a possible reprisal for the shooting down of Iran Airbus 655 and an enigmatic warning delivered to the Marines Compound of the US Embassy in Helsinki on December 5, 1988.
Indeed, as Lester Coleman tells us, this was the crux of Pan Am’s defence against the the punitive compensation claims that eventually bankrupted the company.
This also formed the basis for Juval Aviv’s investigation and the subsequent smears against the former bodyguard to Golda Meyer, when it was suspected that he was one of the sources for Robert Rowan’s important article in Time magazine.
Lester Coleman had meantime signed an affidavit to Pan Am’s lawyers before Coleman, too, was framed for procuring a false passport on instruction from his DIA handlers. Coleman went on the run and became the first US citizen to claim asylum in Sweden since the Vietnam War.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, lawyer Mike Hughes died in a freak traffic accident on a motorway after meeting Les Aspin. Aspin also died under suspicious circumstances in Norwich in 1989.
The Sting Unravels
Shortly after Dalkamoni, Khreesat and Ghadafar were busted on October 26, 1988, there had been further arrests as a result of Operation Herbstlaub. These were of Ahmed and Hasham Abbah, Kasim Nachye. Ahmed Kaplan, Basim Radi, Adnana Younis and Ramzi Diah. Martin Kandra was also arrested but reports differ as to whether this was in West Germany or Yugoslavia. A further raid on an apartment in Rusavic, Yugoslavia, meantime, yielded seven and a half kilos of Semtex H, tow kilos of Soviet manufactured dynamite, 500 detonators and a quantity of fuses. The falt’s Palestinian occupant escaped and fled to Syria.
Subsequent analysis proved that the Semtex in Germany and Yugoslavia came from the same source.
So, if Operation Autumn Leaves arose from a successful sting operation, staged by the CTC, why was it never acknowledged as such? One reason could be that for Duane Clarridge and the CTC, the objective was never to destroy the PFLP-GC in Europe completely but, rather, to replace the existing leadership with one under Mohammed Abu Talb. The CTC, after all, wanted to further undermine Bonn’s cordial relations with Iran and thought it could use the PFLP-GC to these ends. However, Abu Talb had now also been busted in Sweden, for bombing the El Al Offices and synagogue in Stockholm, as part of the CIA’s strategy to discredit the PLO.
Relations between the CIA and SAPO were not good at this point because the Swede’s suspected (correctly in my view) that the CIA had a hand in the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, as arranged by Monzer al Kasser on behalf of BOSS. The Swedes took a dim view of Mohammed Abu Talb bombing El Al Offices and Synagogues in Stockholm whether he was a CIA asset or not. In other words, he was sent down, leaving the CTC’s plan in ruins. Ab Talb has since been released and still lives precariously in Sweden, the last man alive and not in custody to know what really happened to Pan Am 103 from the inside.
Suffice to say here that with the West Germans focused on Autumn Leaves and the Swedes throwing the book at Abu Talb, nobody noticed Abu Elias taking the fifth bomb to London where it would be placed onboard Pan Am 103.
This, of course, became another reason why Clarridge and the CTC could never admit to the sting.
Moreover, if more evidence were needed that this was a sting operation then look no further than how many defendants were released and what happened to them when they were. First and foremost, Marwan Khreesat was called before Judge Christian Ranna in Karkesrue after he phoned his intelligence handlers in Amman on December 5. Perhaps significantly, this was on the same day as the Helsinki warning. In court, Khreesat was told that all the charges against him were dropped and he was quietly flown back to Jordan.
Without doubt, Khreesat did tip off the police, thereby bringing the sting forward and leading to multiple arrests. As regards the Helsinki warning we simply don’t know if this was connected to the phone call which Khreesat placed to Amman. What we do know is that an Iranian defector had falsely accused Marwan Khreesat of being an actual conspirator in the Lockerbie bombing when he was door-stepped by Al Jazeera in the Jordanian capital in 2014. Furious, Khreesat took to Facebook, announcing that he knew the true story of Lockerbie and was about to reveal this to the world. He died under suspicious circumstances shortly afterwards.
In a further twist, neither Dalkomoni nor Ghadafar were ever convicted of actually conspiring to blow up civilian aircraft, out of Frankfurt, as reprisal for Iran Airbus 655. Rather, they were sent down for bombing US troop trains in Hedemund between August 1987 and April 1988. For this, Dalkamoni received a 15 year stretch and Ghadafar was sent down for 12 years. This is in spite of the fact that Dalkomoni admitted, in court, that he had instructed Khreesat to manufacture barometric bombs, as well as that he had given one of these bombs to Ramzi Diah. Dalkomoni also admitted carrying explosives over national boundaries. As we have already said, the only purpose for manufacturing a barometric bomb is to blow up aircraft.
Diah, later identified as a MOSSAD agent, returned to Damascus where he was promptly executed on instruction from Ahmed Jibril. Jibril thought that Diah – rather than Khreesat – had tipped off the police.
The South African Connection
Before John Banks withdrew support for this project, and tried to get Dave Tomkins to kill this writer, the former Angolan war criminal remained emphatic that it was a member of Abu Nidal’s group who broke into Heathrow on December 20, 1988 and placed the Sansomite suitcase with the Toshiba Cassette bomb inside in the Pan Am 103 luggage pen when John Bedford and his supervisor were on their lunch break. Banks, however, has an agenda (beyond the embellishment of his own role) that includes distancing himself from Monzer al Kasser. Above all, he wanted to obscure the fact that he’d been a go-between for al Kasser and South Africa’s BOSS.
Is it a coincidence that when al Kasser moved to London in 1974, at that point working as an asset for MI6 and PET, that he moved into a residence in Sloane Square? This wasn’t merely a stone’s throw from a BOSS safe house but also close to the BCCI branch where al Kasser and his brother, Ghassam, would establish the Black Unit for Robert Booth Nichols in 1977. John Banks, by his own admission, was a regular visitor to that safe house from the early 1970s to 1992, both when he was snitching on Soley Smith and the ANC in London, for BOSS, and when he was involved in a military coup plot in Sierra Leone in 1992.
This plot, which was later revealed in The Guardian, after Banks and Dave Roe were arrested at Freetown Airport, was supposed to deliver a politician called Edison Garvey as leader of Sierra Leone. Garvey was an advisor to Margaret Thatcher whose son, Mark, was also involved in the plot, and Banks believes that Mark Thatcher sold him out to Valentine Strasser when he staged a coup instead. Also involved in the plot, according to Banks, was Lord Robin Renwick of Clifton, who was Thatcher’s Ambassador to Apartheid South Africa until 1994 and corruptly linked to her precious pedophile son. This relationship endured beyond Apartheid and involved a sinister private intelligence agency called Hackyult of which Renwick is a part. Where Banks, who was tortured and almost faced a firing squad in Sierra Leone, and was then almost deported to Angola (where he still faces a death sentence) is less forthcoming is insofar that al Kasser’s criminal associates in the West African Maraka were also involved in the plot, as part of a complex criminal conspiracy that also involved Mohammed Abdullah selling blood diamonds for what became al Qaeda.
In 1998, Mohammed Abdullah would mastermind the bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar el Salaam because he thought that French and US Intelligence were directly complicit in the genocide in Rwanda.
In fact, John Banks’ connection to BOSS dated from shortly after his release from military prison, where he was recruited by British Intelligence following his dishonorable discharge from the paratrooper regiment. During the period to 1975 he mainly ran Trans Asia Express, which is a well documented British Intelligence operation. However, Banks also did work for the Psychological Research Operations Committee of the Ministry of Defence in the area of black propaganda. In particular, he’d been involved in a high profile stunt, in the full glare of the media, at the Tower Hotel in London, to allegedly recruit white mercenaries for Joshua N’Komo and the Zimbabwe National Liberation Movement. The main purpose of this stunt was to discredit N’Komo, who’d threatened to allow the deployment of Soviet troops in Zambia, and undermine a peace negotiation between Kaunda and Smith, because Edward Heath’s government still wanted to legalise the UDI regime. But is also had the effect of winning the confidence of the ANC in London on whom Banks would now spy for BOSS.
During this period the Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organisation and BOSS worked closely in the UK, not least in relation to the various plots against Harold Wilson. This much has been confirmed e.g. by BOSS whistle-blower Gordon Winter in his important book published in 1980.
From 1973 to 1975 Banks ran Trans Asia Express for British Intelligence. This ran SAS teams and equipment into Iraq during its first war with Iran and also ran sortees into Iran, both via Turkey. Given that the Shah of Iran was an ally of the British government, who’d helped establish his absolute dictatorship in a bloody military coup in 1953, and that Iraq’s al Bakr was at that time the Soviet Union’s closest ally in the Middle East, it should come as no surprise that Trans Asia Express was supplying intelligence on Iraqi infrastructure and troop movements to the Iranian military command and the secret police, the SAVAK.
According to John Banks, however, Trans Asia Express also trafficked nuclear equipment and materials to Iran in the same false interiors of its trucks. The source of this equipment and materials, according to Banks, was Israel and South Africa, whose collusion in developing mutual nuclear weapons programs involved South Africa’s Armscorps, a Canadian-Irish rocket scientist called Gerard Bull, and which was indeed exposed on World in Action in the 1980s. It had also, however, formed the basis for an episode of The Sweeney, by Troy Kennedy Martin, called “The Travelling Salesman,” which Banks swears he’s never seen. I frankly find that hard to believe bearing in mind how iconic a series The Sweeney was (and despite the fact that all he watches now is Steve Bannon’s Briebart, Alex Jones and Russia Today).. That said, I interviewed Troy as part of my PhD studies and the episode could well have been founded in fact.
After the first Iran-Iraq War ended with the Algiers Treaty of 1975, and much as in the afore mention episode of The Sweeney, Trans Asia Express literally vanished off the face of the Earth.
In 1977 Monzer al Kasser and his brother, Ghassan, helped set up the Black Unit of BCCI on behalf of his then CIA handler, Robert Booth Nichols. This was to serve as a “covert fund,” to finance off the books and clandestine operations that were under the radar of Congressional Oversight. Most of the money came from drug trafficking. In this respect, the BCCI Black Unit, that was based close to al Kasser’s then home in Sloane Square, London (as well as the BOSS safe house) was a replacement for the Nugen-Hand Bank that had performed a similar role since the Vietnam War. One such covert operation included the funding, backing and direction of Abu Nidal’s group, for whom al Kasser served as the CIA’s point man, but it also included the much bigger Operation Cyclone, by which the CIA and MI6 backed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan and financed them through drug smuggling on an industrial scale.
On this occasion the end user certificates were provided not by Rafi Eitan and MOSSAD but by General Gerard Gul, then head of Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence Organisation (ISO). The mentor to Osama bin Laden, Gul would in 1993 found the Lashkar-e-Taiba network linked to Generation One al Qaeda. .
Gul was a true believing supporter of the Afghan Mujahedinne but the secular al Kasser’s faith was in money. Together with AQ Khan, Monzer al Kasser started diverting part of the Mujadehinne’s drug revenues that passed through BCCI’s black unit, into a black market cartel dealing in nuclear weapons components and materials.
The source of the uranium was South African occupied Namibia.
As we will later discover, the network included Arif Zardarwi, a protected CIA asset who was later the corrupt husband of Benezir Bhutto in Pakistan. As we shall also see, Bhutto was a sworn enemy of General Hamud Gul whose network would eventually murder her.
According to John Banks, this explains how al Kasser was able to murder Cyrus Hashemi, through radiation poisoning, before he was able to give testimony against Adnan Karshoggi in 1986. But it also explains how and why al Kasser was still intimately connected to BOSS in 1988.
Despite recent claims by the Swedish authorities, that Olof Palme was murdered by a lone madman, there is compelling evidence that that BOSS arranged the assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister, confident in the knowledge that he was also a thorn in the side of the CIA. A staunch opponent of Apartheid, Palme had also tried to negotiate a peace deal between Iran and Iraq, after the Iranians seized the Fao Peninsula and were in fact winning the Iran-Iraq War. This is worth remembering following Sweden’s perhaps unwise decision to join NATO.
Former CIA asset and whistle-blower Oswald Le Winter had mooted that BOSS somehow colluded in the Lockerbie bombing, when advising film director Allan Frankovitch on the iconic documentary, The Maltese Double Cross, screened in 1994. As we shall see later Le Winter was a far from reliable source, preempting that of John Banks a decade or so later. However, in 1997, Frankovitch sent a letter to Jeremy Stavenhagen, who was the leading DOP on The Maltese Double Cross, in which he named Palme’s killer as an Arab living in the Canary Islands. Shortly afterwards, Allan Frankovitch died under suspicious circumstances at Huston Airport in Texas and is now buried on the Isle of Sky.
Meanwhile, the evidence linked Monzer al Kasser to the assassination of Olof Palme is not conclusive but compelling. Thanks to his key role in the GAL death squad program, al Kasser controlled several Arab terrorists turned guns for hire, who murdered Basque dissidents in France even before al Kasser became an asset of the CTC. These were mostly members or former members of the PFLP-GC although those involved in the Achille Lauro hijack in 1985 were not. Al Kasser’s point man in Sweden, meantime, was Mohammed Abu Talb whom the CIA were grooming to replace Dalkamoni as head of the PFLP-GC in Europe. If BOSS wanted al Kasser to murder Olof Palme, with sufficient plausible deniability if the killer were caught, then al Kasser was perfectly placed to arrange this.
Years later, Oswald Le Winter was released from prison in the UK having falsely claimed that Princess Di was murdered by MI6. This had been part of a ploy by Le Winter to extort £40 million from Mohammed al Fayed, the corrupt brother in law of Adnan Karshoggi. Significantly Le Winter, who arranged security at the original October Surprise meeting in Paris in 1980, had mooted a South African connection to the Lockerbie bombing in the past but also steered allan Frankovitch away from any reference to al Kasser or Chuck McKee, as we will find out below. Now, Le Winter stayed for several days with Jeremy Stavenhagen, at his then address on Hampstead Heath, before returning to the hotel that Le Winter owned on the Franco-German border. When Le Winter had gone, Jeremy discovered that the letter from Frankovitch, identifying Palme’s killing, had been stolen. This could not have been part of a regular robbery as Jeremy’s home, then as now, is full of seriously expensive articles of Islamic art, none of which was touched.
Officially, Oswald Le Winter died in 2012 and an obituary, in The Italian Insider, by Philip Willan, makes for fascinating reading. What is interesting is that Duane Clarridge died, and Robert Booth Nichols is alleged to have died at around the same time. This recalls the mystery of Ron Stark’s disappearance, referenced by Willan, after the Aldo Moro abduction and murder in Italy in 1978,
Nor do the footnotes to this tale end there. In 2004, al Qaeda bombed Madrid train station, even though the Spanish had already declared that they were pulling out of Iraq. The culprits in the bombing were revealed to be Syrians and other Arabs, all involved in drug production and trafficking and all of them registered as police informants, who had previously been part of the GAL death squad program against ETA. Moreover, and far from being Islamic Fundamentalists, all were former member of the PFLP-GC who had been handled by Monzer al Kasser, on behalf of Spanish Intelligence and later of the Counter Terrorism Committee of the CIA. The non-existent Islamic Jihad, it seemed, had been resurrected in the context of the war on terror to service whatever agenda, for all that al Kasser was no longer a CIA asset after the Iraqi insurgency of 2003.
Former civil servant Patrick Haseldine is wrong to think that South Africa’s BOSS initiated the Lockerbie bombing over Namibian uranium but, as we shall see, there is more than an element of truth in his claims.
As previously stated the sting operation which al Kasser subverted, to procure the Toshiba-cassette bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103, was set up as early as 1986 in a failed attempt to precipitate retaliation for the Operation Eldorado Canyon airstrike against Libya. It was resurrected by Duane Clarridge and Monzer al Kasser following the shooting down of Iran Airbus 655 which explains how the sting could be put together at such short notice. In other words, all the connections, personnel and resources were already in place from 1986.
The targets of the bombing were Mathew Frank Gannon, Deputy Head of CIA Station in Beirut, DEA and DIA asset Khaled Jaafar (who had participated in a rescue plot undermined by John Banks) Chuck McKee and Chuck McKee’s report that he was taking to the John Kerry Commission. That 270 people were murdered as a result of this was collateral damage as far as Monzer al Kasser was concerned. However, and as Oswald Le winter had himself admitted, BOSS were tipped off that the bombing was going to take place, which is why John De Klerke was pulled from the aircraft and Brett Carlsson, the UN Special Envoy for Namibia, given a seat in his place. As to whether it was John Banks who was used to tip the South Africans off, we do not know, any more than we know if he was present when Les Aspin was tortured and later died, but he was sufficiently scared of something to try and get me killed in 2015.
Where Hasseldine is also correct is to identify that there was a break in at Heathrow, the night before Pan Am 103 was destroyed, and that the bomb was placed onboard via the luggage bay at Heathrow, not Frankfurt as later claimed – even at the trial of Abdelbasset al Megrahi. Morag Kerr has since identified a Sansomite suitcase which can be connected to nobody on the Pan Am 103 passenger list that was left languishing in the baggage pen while John Bedford and his supervisor were on their lunch break. Bedford’s own affidavit confirms that the luggage pen was left unattended at the time.
For this, Patrick Hasseldine was sacked by John Major and has remained understandably bitter ever since.
The Libyan Connection
“Investigators suggest that employees of Libyan Arab Airlines in Frankfurt planted the bomb which destroyed a Pan American Jumbo Jet four days before Christmas, killing 270 people in and around Lockerbie.”
- CBS News, February 3, 1989
When CBS news claimed, on February 3, 1989, that employees of Libyan Arab Airlines might have been involved in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, the dogs on the street knew that Libyan Arab Airlines also offered diplomatic cover to agents of Libyan intelligence operating on European soil. This would include a sanction buster such as Abdelbaset al Megrahi, who was based in Switzerland and moved around Europe on a false passport accordingly.
As a patsy, Abdelbaset al Megrahi certainly fit the bill because he was, indeed, involved in subterfuge across Europe. Indeed, his path might even have crossed that of al Kasser and AQ Khan, whose nuclear proliferation network operated through the BCCI Black Unit in Sloane Square, London. In short, Abdelbaset al Megrahi may very well have been up to no good. What he wasn’t involved in in any way, however, was the murder of 270 people in and around Lockerbie, Scotland.
On December 5, 1988, a call was placed to the Marines Compound of the US Embassy in Helsinki. It was promptly passed on to State Department Special Agent Frank Luzzi. The caller, who spoke with “a thick Arab accent,” refused to give his name but insisted that an American civil aircraft was going to be bombed out of Frankfurt. The caller also identified the Abu Nidal group as the culprits in this alleged terror plot and specifically referred to a “Mr Solorama” from Stockholm. “Mr Solorama” just happened to be an alias for Samir Kadir, who was Abu Nidal’s right hand man in Sweden.
Perhaps significantly, Marwan Khreeset had phoned his Jordanian Intelligence handler in Amman and been quietly released from custody, in Germany, that very same day.
When John Berwick of Pan American security flew to the Finnish Capital on December 8, 1988, he was very quickly told that the Helsinki was a hoax that derived from rivalry between drug gangs. However, whoever spoke to Luzzi knew a Hell of a lot about Abu Nidal’s network in Sweden, including the fact that Mr solarama, aka Samir Kadir, had a Finnish wife.
It may also be worth noting that al Kasser’s key asset inside the PFLP-GC, namely Mohammed Abu Talb, who almost certainly stole the fifth Toshiba-cassette bomb made by Khreesat and arranged for it to be taken to London, was also based in Stockholm.
Indeed, the only problem with this attempt to link the Abu Nidal group, to the future bombing of Pan Am 103, apart from the fact that it’s focus on Frankfurt as being where the bomb would be put on the plane, was that Samir Kadir had been blown up in a hire car near Athens, during a bungled attempt to hijack a cruise liner, according to a report in The New York Times dated July 11, 1988.
Samir Kadir certainly had previous for terrorism. In 1978, he had murdered an Egyptian editor in Nicosia, taken hostages and then attempted to hijack a Cypriot Airlines jet in a bungled attempt to escape.
Having arrived in Greece on July 1, 1988, using a false Libyan passport in the name of Netzab Jabellah, he blew himself up with another man when trying to board the cruise ship, City of Poros. Clearly, this was an attempt to replicate the methods of the Achille Lauro hijack initiated by Monzer al Kasser three years before.
Kadir was blown to pieces but his corpse was identified by a thumb print.
Now, seemingly, here was Samir Kadir, apparently risen like a zombie from the dead, planning to blow up an American aircraft out of Frankfurt.
Conversation with Luzzi
The Helsinki warning was placed at 11.45 local time, some hours after Marwan Khreesat phoned his intelligence handler in Amman. Part of the conversation with Agent Luzzi went as follows:
LUZZI: I’ll ask you again, can you tell me your name?
CALLER: No, but my message is simple. Sometime between now and the end of the year, operatives of the Abu Nidal group will smuggle a bomb onboard a Pan American Aircraft from Frankfurt to the US.
LUZZI: Who? Who will put the bomb on board the plane?
CALLER: Mr Solaranta.
The caller then went on to explain the complex human chain by which the bomb would be placed on the plane. Firstly, a man in Frankfurt called Abdullah Yassan Gaadel, who had just arrived from Libya and was resident in a small town near Helsinki, would give the bomb to a man called Garadet. Garadet, in turn, would place the bomb on the person of an unsuspecting woman from Finland. All in all, it all sounded very much like the attempted bombing of the El Al plane at Heathrow in 1986.
Significantly, while identifying Frankfurt as the place where the bomb would be placed on the plane, the caller made no reference to the controlled drug shipments passing through the airport, with the complicity of the compromised DEA station in Nicosia. Just as significantly, the fact that Abu Nidal was being accredited with this bomb plot also suggested an early attempt to implicate Libya. Abu Nidal, after all, had had absolutely no contact with the Syrian regime since he broke with the Ba’ath Party in 1966, and Michel ‘Aflaq was expelled to Iraq.
Although he was a controlled asset of the CIA, courtesy of Monzer al Kasser and the BCCI black unit in Sloane Square, the public projection was that Abu Nidal was an asset of the Libyan government – an idea particularly projected by the Daily Express at the time of the Brighton Bombing in 1984. In much the same way, David Yallup had reported to MI6 that Abu Nidal was a regular visitor to Tripoli only to discover that Britain’s Secret intelligence Service, for whom Abu Nidal was an asset, already knew this and weren’t remotely interested.
On February 5, Agent Luzzi logged the details of the phone call with the mysterious informant. There then occurred a strange paradox whereby John Berwick, of Pan Am Security, was told that the Helsinki warning was a hoax while alerts were posted to all US diplomatic staff in the Middle East, in Germany and in the USSR, advising them not to travel home for Christmas. At the time, all US diplomatic personnel used Pan Am. The alert that was circulated, at this time, may explain why Pan Am 103 was relatively empty when the bomb detonated above Lockerbie on December 21, 1988.
It was immediately before Christmas and in Beirut, Mathew Frank Gannon and Chuck McKee were just about to break security protocol to return to Washington.
At 7.00 pm on December 21, 1988, dusk had long settled on the small borders town of Lockerbie, population 5000, close by the Carlisle to Glasgow Road. Many of the town’s residents were settled in front of their televisions to watch a program called This is Your Life that was popular at the time.
It was at this point that Pan Am 103 banked, raised altitude and that the barometric Tosbiba-cassette bomb detonated above the town, raining bodies and bloody debris and creating a fiery tableau that stretched for two miles, all the way to the ancient Tudgarth Church. Grotesquely, amidst the bodies and wreckage, wrapped Christmas presents and children’s soft toys were scattered across the landscape.
In the US Embassy in London, CIA head of station and Iran Contra insider William Mott answered an urgent phone call. CIA agents were then deployed in a convoy of buses from nearby US military bases, often more quickly than the police and emergency services, and descended on the tiny town like an army of occupation. Most wore identical cream overcoats. Their orders were simple – find and recover Chuck McKee’s case and the damning report that was inside.
While the CIA, with their tracking devices, were stomping all over crime scene, the police set up a makeshift headquarters and evidence depository at the old disused Dextar chemical plant and it was here that DCI John Orr of Strathclyde CID addressed a mixture of local, Glasgow and Transport Police. David Fieldhouse, Police Surgeon, was there at the time and what he heard at that first meeting astonished him.
Orr said: “It is politically unacceptable that this crash might have been caused by a bomb.”
One of the problems, as Fieldhouse and Morag Kerr both concur, is that the SOCO team deployed at Lockerbie had no experience of identifying bomb damaged aluminum. More worrying to Fieldhouse, however, were the armed snipers circling the crash site in helicopters, training their rifles on volunteers like him, while the CIA destroyed more evidence and (we suspect) planted some of their own. Heroin was meantime found on the Todd Farm, alluding to the controlled shipments out of Frankfurt, while bundles of al Kasser’s counterfeit American currency adorned the hedgerows of the English border like tawdry bunting at a village fete.
Eventually, McKee’s case was found and handed over, by John Ore, to the CIA with no questions asked. It was then dumped a second time, to be discovered by British Transport Police, and now contained only clean clothes.
McKee’s dossier had been handed to someone – and that someone was William Mott.
William Mott, the CIA head of station in London, had enjoyed links to Iran Contra from the very outset. In fact, as we have seen, he recruited John Edward Banks to Operation Black Eagle (which was based in London) from the very moment that Banks was released from prison, in 1982, having absconded for the greater part of his sentence for extortion. Under the rubric of Operation Black Eagle, Monzer al Kasser, with whom Banks was already associated, supplied weapons to the Contra Northern Command operating out of Honduras. The weapons were funded by drug revenues, laundered through FIDCO and BCCI, and purchased using Israeli end user certificates provided by Rafi Eitan. The SETCO aircraft, used in the shipments, were furnished by SETCO airlines who were linked both to the Columbian Cali and Mexican Guadalajara Cartels. The planes shipped weapons in and drugs out.
An important article in Rolling Stone in 1988 provides perhaps the best account of how Operation Black Eagle worked without referring to Banks, Eitan or al Kasser by name.
By 1986, however, and for various reasons, the Contra Northern Command had been shut down. In its place, as Leslie Cockburn tells us, the Contra Southern Command operated out of John Hull’s ranch in Costa Rica. By this time, the drugs were being flown directly into the US via the Air Force base in Fort Lauderdale. The cocaine was then cooked as crack, on an industrial scale, in a CIA facility in San Francisco and sold by the CIA’s organized crime connections on the streets of Los Angeles as revealed by investigative journalist Gary Webb.
Nor did the criminal activity linked to Iran Contra end there. During Operation Black eagle, British mercenary contractors from KMS had committed war crimes in Nicaragua that included the bombing of Managua harbor, later exposed on World in Action. Now, British mercenaries operating out of John Hull’s ranch in Costa Rica were once more in the mix. Indeed, at one point, according to Leslie Cockburn, they were involved in a plan to bomb the US embassy in Costa Rica, blame it on the Sandanistas and get the Boal Ruling sanctions on arms sales to the Contras lifted. This plot was conceived by no less a person than Oliver North himself.
Other crimes conceived and executed during this second phase of the Iran Contra conspiracy included the attempted assassination of Eden Pastora.
Meanwhile, with the closure of the Contra Northern Command, William Mott had been anything but idle. He was in continued direct contact with CIA Director William Casey, a protégé of George HW Bush and insider both to October Surprise and Iran Contra, during Casey’s direct dealings with KGB defector Oleg Godiefsky. This is to say that both Casey and Mott would have had intimate knowledge of the corruption both in the Dresden and London stations of the KGB, the latter of which was run by Alexander Lebedev. In other words, they would have known of the existence of 600 front companies through which corrupt KGB and other future Oligarchs siphoned money out of the USSR and its bloc and how Robert Maxwell, and his then business partner Jeffrey Epstein, were handling these portfolios.
It was around this time that Robert Booth Nichols, who had been Monzer al Kasser’s original CIA handler, and on whose behalf the al Kasser brothers had helped set up the BCCI black unit in London, got Maxwell to sell a version of the PROMIS software, developed by Wackenhut, to the self same corrupt KGB cabal. This was the same PROMIS software that had been stolen by the Hamiltons by Rafi Eitan, in 1983, that was used in a $58 billion theft from a loan to the then USSR that further facilitated its destruction. It also formed the basis for the software later developed by Cambridge Analytica and Robert Mercer’s deeply sinister SCL.
In 1987, William Casey conveniently died of cancer ahead of his indictment over Iran Contra. By now, however, Duane Clarridge, another Iran Contra insider who had been present at the October Surprise meeting in Paris, in 1980 (and who admitted the existence of October Surprise in a death bed interview with Newsweek) had set up the Counter Terrorism Centre of the CIA’s Directorate of Special Operations, which was also partly based (from 1986) in London’s CIA station under William Mott’s watch. This, in turn, was connected to Casey’s activities, and that of both Robert Booth Nichols and Maxwell, in that the primary objective of the CTC was to operationally link the KGB to European terrorism via Libya. Later, when the Iranians seized the Fao Peninsula, also in 1986, this brief extended to the further criminalization and demonization of Iran.
In other words there were plenty of skeletons in Mott’s own cupboard when he was called upon to extract Chuck McKee’s suitcase and file from the Lockerbie crime scene and, quite possibly, begin the process of framing Abdelbaset al Megrahi as well.
Allan Frankovitch and the Maltese Double Cross
In 1994, Allan Frankovitch’s seminal but ultimately flawed documentary, The Maltese Double Cross, referred to the role of the PFLP-GC cell in Europe in the plot to bomb multiple aircraft out of Frankfurt Airport, in reprisal for the downing of Iran Airbus 655 over the Gulf of Hormuz. It did not mention that this was the result of a sting operation set up by Monzer al Kasser, on behalf of the Counter Terrorism Committee of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations partly based in London. However, it did allude to the Autumn Leaves bust, itself, in the October of 1988.
Where the film falls down, in my view, is in its claim that the same PFLP-GC cell also bombed Pan Am 103, with the bomb being secreted on board the Pan Am 103A feeder plane out of Frankfurt, courtesy of the controlled drug shipments that were indeed passing through the German airport at the time. This is more or less consistent with the Helsinki Warning which, as we saw, was issued on December 5, 1988, for all that the warning accredited the plot not to the PFLP-GC but, rather, to Abu Nidal.
Without doubt the bomb that actually destroyed the plane was part of the batch manufactured by Marwan Khreesat as part of the sting operation that culminated in the Autumn Leaves bust.
What is most astonishing about Frankovitch’s film, however, is that it makes absolutely no reference either to Monzer al Kasser or Chuck McKee. This is in spite of the fact that the very first person interviewed for the film, in a fishing village in Portugal, was none other than the DIA whistle-blower Lester Coleman, who had leaked details of Iran Contra to an Arabic language newspaper in Lebanon and exposed the corrupt complicity of the DEA station in Nicosia, in the afore mentioned controlled drug shipments to the US. In 1991, Coleman and an Israeli security specialist were widely thought to be two of the sources for Roy Rowan’s seminal article in Time magazine, on the Lockerbie bombing that indeed referred directly to both Monzer al Kasser and Chuck McKee. By the time that Allan Frankovitch interviewed Coleman he had become the first US citizen to be granted political asylum in Sweden since the Vietnam War. After Frankovitch’s film was eventually screened, and with Coleman’s own book banned in the US to this day, it was Mark Porter of the Daily Express who delivered a hatchet job on Coleman, courtesy of Paul Wilkinson at St Andrews University.
During research for this series of articles (and a book and documentary I still aim to produce) I got to know Jeremy Stavenhagen extremely well. Jeremy was the lead DOP on The Maltese Double Cross, a personal friend of Allan Frankovitch and the original researcher for the film before John Ashton came on board. In this capacity he also got to know one Oswald Le Winter extremely well. According to Jeremy, Frankovitch didn’t refer to al Kasser or Chuck McKee, in his film, because he insisted on claims being corroborated by at least two independent sources. This is good journalistic practice. However, reading between the lines of Jeremy’s account it has become evident, to me, that Le Winter also deliberately steered the film’s focus away from al Kasser and McKee, erasing facts that Roy Rowan had already established in the public domain.
In the next article in this series we will look at how and why Le Winter undermined Frankovitch’s documentary the way that he did. We will see how the failed American poet and academic shares many personality traits with John Banks who was also primarily inducted into the secret world as a specialist in black propaganda and disinformation. As Paul Willan was to write in an excellent obituary to Le Winter in The Italian Insider, following his alleged death in 2012, Le Winter was a man who mixed “truth with duplicity,” trading both as a means of income and survival as a disavowed former CIA asset. In particular, Willan cites how he declined Le Winter’s involvement in his own seminal book on GLADIO, namely: The Puppet Masters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy. Looking at what Le Winter did to Allan Frankovitch it is easy to see why.
Although mainly involved in black propaganda and misinformation, Le Winter had been involved in actual CIA operations including drug trafficking in South East Asia (linked to the notorious Phoenix Program) and the capture, torture and murder of Che Guevara in Bolivia, on instruction from George HW Bush. As Jeremy recalls, Le Winter kept Che’s blood stained poncho as a macabre trophy, at the hotel he owned on the Franco-German border, just as Felix Rodriguez kept Che’s rolex as a paperweight. It would be from this very hotel that Le Winter would arrange security at the October Surprise meeting in Paris in 1980.
The drug operation, with which Le Winter was involved in Vietnam, involved using the bodies of dead GIs to ship heroin to a funeral parlor in New York, owned by the Gambino Mafia family. Significantly, the Gambino’s also owned, or controlled, the casino on the Cabizon Native American Reservation where the Cali Cartel’s drug revenues were laundered, at the time of the October Surprise meeting in Paris, and thus before Robert Booth Nichols and al Kasser set up the money laundering conduit through FIDCO. This further suggests a connection between Le Winter and Booth-Nichols (who allegedly died in the same year) and who had laundered the drug revenues for the Phoenix Program in Vietnam via the Nugen Hand Bank. This was Booth-Nichols’ “covert fund” that would be replaced by BCCI’s “black unit” from 1977.
Le Winter’s first involvement with Allan Frankovitch was on a BBC Timewatch documentary on GLADIO, or the state manipulation of terrorism in Italy, which was made one year after Phillip Willan published his important book. This set the agenda for Le Winter’s pre-eminent involvement in The Maltese Double Cross after Tony Rowlands, then owner of The Observer and Observer films, commissioned Allan to make the project in a series of meetings in London that we will describe. On the one hand, there was certainly no love lost between Le Winter and Oliver North, who had Le Winter sent down on drug charges, and Le Winter had no problems exposing North’s involvement in Iran Contra. On the other, Le Winter seems to have gone to a great deal of effort to steer Frankovitch away from either al Kasser or Chuck McKee.
As we shall see, this may yet have a bearing on Allan Frankovitch’s own suspicious death, in Houston, Texas, in 1997, at a time when he was investigating the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden in 1986. As we have already seen, this murder was indeed connected to the Lockerbie story via Monzer al Kasser. As for the further connections, we will check these out next time.