Hafez Dalkamoni

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Person.png Hafez DalkamoniRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
BornHafez Kassem Dalkamoni
28 September 1945

Hafez Dalkamoni was born on 28 September 1945 in Damascus, Syria, according to his German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) files (others have reported that he was born in Palestine). From an early age, Dalkamoni developed a deep hatred for the State of Israel, having been arrested by Israeli security forces before his tenth birthday. He had been a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command since its creation in October 1968.

In 1969, Dalkamoni entered Israel and tried to blow up a power station in Galilee but one of his bombs exploded prematurely and he lost a leg. Dalkamoni was captured and spent ten years in an Israeli prison. In 1979, Dalkamoni was released from jail in a prisoner exchange arranged by PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril.[1]

In August 1987, Hafez Dalkamoni organised the bombing of an American troop train in Hedemunde, West Germany. In January 1988, Dalkamoni moved to the city of Neuss, near Dusseldorf, where he stayed in an apartment at 16 Isarstrasse. The apartment was rented by Hashem Abassi, his brother in law. Dalkamoni was married to Hannah, the sister of Somaia Abassi.

In Neuss, on 26 October 1988, Hafez Dalkamoni was arrested by the BKA and in 1991 was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for terrorism offences.

“I only gave Abu Elias name once… to Marwan Khreesat. And therefore, only Khreesat could have revealed his name.”

(Hafez Dalkamoni to sister-in-law Somaia Abassi — Prison visit, July 1989)[2]

Hafez Dalkamoni was released from prison on 27 June 1995 and deported to Syria.

Operation Autumn Leaves

In 1988, Ahmed Jibril assigned Hafez Dalkamoni to set up a PFLP-GC cell in the Frankfurt and Neuss areas of West Germany and prepare terrorist bombs. In Germany, Dalkamoni was collaborating closely with Abdel Fattah Ghadanfar, a Palestinian born on 14 December 1949 in Irbid, Jordan, who used at least nine aliases, one of which was Nabil Massoud. During what Germany's internal security service, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), called Operation Herbstlaub (Operation Autumn Leaves), the BfV kept cell members under strict surveillance. The plotters were preparing a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) hidden inside household electronic equipment. They discussed a planned operation in coded calls to Cyprus and Damascus: oranges and apples stood for 'detonating devices'; medicine and pasta for 'Semtex explosive'; and auntie for 'the bomb carrier'. One operative had been recorded as saying: "auntie should get off, but should leave the suitcase on the bus" (Duffy and Emerson 1990). The PFLP-GC cell had an experienced bomb-maker, Jordanian Marwan Khreesat, to assist them. Khreesat made at least one IED inside a single-speaker Toshiba Bombeat 453 radio cassette recorder, similar to the twin-speaker model RT-SF 16 Bombeat that was allegedly used to blow up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland on 21 December 1988. However, unlike the Lockerbie bomb with its sophisticated timer, Khreesat's IEDs contained a barometric pressure device that triggers a simple timer with a range of up to 45 minutes before detonation.[3]

Planned targets

Unbeknown to the PFLP-GC cell, its bomb-maker Khreesat was a Jordanian intelligence service (GID) agent and reported on the cell's activities to the GID, who relayed the information to Western intelligence and to the BfV. The Jordanians encouraged Khreesat to make the bombs but instructed him to ensure they were ineffective and would not explode. (A German police technician would however be killed, in April 1989, when trying to disarm one of Khreesat's IEDs). Through Khreesat and the GID, the Germans learned that the cell was surveying a number of targets, including Iberia Flight 888 from Madrid to Tel Aviv via Barcelona, chosen because the bomb-courier could disembark without baggage at Barcelona, leaving the barometric trigger to activate the IED on the next leg of the journey. The date chosen, Khreesat reportedly told his handlers, was 30 October 1988. He also told them that two members of the cell had been to Frankfurt airport to pick up Pan Am timetables.

Arrested, imprisoned, released

Acting upon this intelligence, the German secret police moved in to arrest the PFLP-GC cell on 26 October 1988, raiding 14 apartments and arresting Dalkamoni, Ghadanfar and fourteen other suspects, fearing that to keep them under surveillance much longer was to risk losing control of the situation. Two cell members are known to have escaped arrest, including Abu Elias, a resident of Sweden who, according to Prime Time Live (ABC News November 1989), was an expert in bombs sent to Germany to check on Khreesat's devices because of suspicions raised by Ahmed Jibril. Four IEDs were recovered, but Khreesat stated later that a fifth device had been taken away by Dalkamoni before the raid, and was never recovered. The link to Pan Am 103 was further strengthened when Khreesat told investigators that, before joining the cell in Germany, he had bought five Toshiba Bombeat cassette radios from a smugglers' village in Syria close to the border with Lebanon, and made practice IEDs out of them in Jibril's training camp 20 km (12 miles) away. The bombs were inspected by Abu Elias, who declared them to be good work. What became of these devices is not known.[4]

All but Dalkamoni, Ghadanfar were released in a matter of days, including the senior bomb maker of the group Marwan Khreesat. In 1991, Ghadanfar and Dalkamoni were sentenced to 12 and 15 years on terrorism charges for their role in the bombing of the US trains in Germany. Neither man ever served his full sentence. Ghadanfar was released on 9 November 1994. Dalkamoni was released on 27 June 1995. Both were deported to Syria. In both cases, Iran had negotiated their extradition to Syria in complete secrecy.

Parliamentary Question

On 4 July 1996, Labour MP Tam Dalyell asked Prime Minister John Major:

To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the answer of 13 May, Official Report, column 362, about the release of Hafez Dalkamoni, in what circumstances the release by one country of a prisoner who is a national of another country is not solely a matter for the authority of the detaining country; and if he will make a statement.
The Prime Minister: I have nothing to add to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), on 17 January 1996, Official Report, column 590, other than that Mr. Dalkamoni was released on 27 June and deported to Syria.[5]


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Did German bungling lead to Pan Am 103?Article24 September 1989Gavin HewittThe blunders of "Operation Autumn Leaves" didn't end with the case of Marwan Khreesat. One of those arrested in the 26 October 1988 sweep was a Palestinian by the name of "Ramzi Diab" which was not his real name, it turned out. That name had been taken from an Israeli passport stolen in Spain. The German police suspect he may actually have transported the Lockerbie bomb.
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