Marwan Khreesat

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Person.png Marwan KhreesatRdf-icon.png
(bomb maker, spy)
Marwan Khreesat.jpg
Marwan Khreesat double/triple agent and PFLP-GC bomb-maker
Born Marwan Abd Rezak Mufti Khreesat

Marwan Khreesat of Jordanian nationality is a terrorist bomb-maker who was active with Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) in the early 1970s and again in the mid-late 1980s. Marwan Khreesat's speciality was the altimeter bomb - designed to kill airliners. The IED would be hidden inside electronics such as a radio/cassette player, packed in a suitcase and only detonate after reaching a certain altitude.

By 1988 at the latest, Marwan Khreesat was also working for Jordanian intelligence, General Intelligence Directorate (GID), making him a double agent when he was called back into Ahmed Jibril's fold in the autumn of 1988. To help Iran avenge the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988, a PFLP-GC cell was formed in Neuss/Frankfurt, West Germany, and centered around helping Khreesat build more altimeter bombs. His Jordanian GID bosses instructed him to infiltrate the PFLP-GC cell and not to arm any of his bombs. Instead, four armed bombs were intercepted in the October 1988 operation 'Autumn Leaves' raid by West German police, with a fifth IED disappearing just six weeks before the Lockerbie bombing of 21 December 1988.

Marwan Khreesat was among those arrested in the 'Autumn Leaves' raid but was quickly released and in November 1988 fled back to Jordan where he remained. He was at first a Lockerbie suspect but then he was found to be a CIA informer and gave clues to the FBI in two November 1989 interviews. Suspicion then moved towards Libya and away from the PFLP-GC.[1]

Early Khreesat "Magic"

Marwan Khreesat has a long and unusual career as a bomb-maker spanning nearly two decades. He was employed by the radical PFLP-GC in two distinct phases with a long pause between – the early 1970s and mid-late 1980s, culminating with the 'Autumn Leaves' operation a few weeks before the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

His formula, the Khreesat magic, was to wire a barometric switch to a plastic explosive IED hidden inside consumer electronics. The result was altimeter bomb, triggered by falling air pressure, revolutionising airline "terrorism". It avoided a problem with timers on much-delayed flights – this would not blow until airborne, maximising the chance of mass fatalities.

Emerson and Duffy reported in a 1990 book that "according to Israeli intelligence files, it is almost certain that Ahmed Jibril (PFLP-GC) in 1970 was responsible for the very first plane bombing carried out with a barometer-triggered explosive," and the bombs were built by Khreesat. Two flights from Europe to Israel were bombed the same day (21 February 1970) with radio-based IEDs. These first two were gotten onto the plane by being sent as Air Mail to Israel – so the carriers, not the bombers, chose the flights that would be hit. One of these devices killed no one, and the other left none alive.[2]

An Austrian airliner (Australian per Emerson and Duffy) from Frankfurt to Vienna and then Tel Aviv, Israel, detonated at 10,000 feet. All 38 aboard survived, following an emergency landing at Frankfurt. But the same day, Swissair Flight 330 "blew up 15 minutes after leaving Zurich for Tel Aviv," Emerson and Duffy wrote, at an altitude of 14,000 feet. The pilots tried to re-land, but thick smoke and then power failure caused them to crash in the woods at Würenlingen. All 47 people on board perished.

A German-language appendix to a report (provided by Edwin Bollier) is quite informative. It disagrees with the above specifics – the airport is about 1,400 feet above mean sea level, and the approximate trigger altitude is shown as 3,500 feet MSL, with the detonation coming perhaps one minute later, at 4000 feet (2610 above the airport). It was apparently not a powerful bomb, it’s almost a fluke that it worked to such deadly effect. The bulky altimeter was recovered pretty much intact.[3]

Khreesat’s work struck again on 16 August 1972 with El Al Flight 444 from Barcelona to Tel Aviv. The altimeter bomb this time was powered by 250 grams ammonium nitrate hidden in a Phillips record player. This had been gifted by a terrorist to a young British lady. This was in her luggage in the rear hold when it detonated at 14,700 feet. The cabin floor was damaged, but the plane was fine and re-landed safely with some injuries but no deaths. Two men she’d met were arrested and said they given the bomb by Khreesat in Yugoslavia.[4]

Having been compromised, it makes sense that - as the Mossad says - Khreesat left the PFLP-GC in 1973, perhaps just laying low as their secret weapon. However later events suggest he became an asset for Jordanian intelligence, GID, presumably during this long downtime. But no more such bombings happened from the PFLP-GC, and the threat faded over more than a decade.

In general, Khreesat's first three bombs showed an inventive approach that made sure a plane was airborne before detonating. They did not however wait until the plane was way up there. The early triggering allowed for a safe return. Further, some combination of inadequate explosives and random placement in luggage yielded high failure rates. If such a bomb could wait longer to detonate, blow harder, and be placed nearer the hull, it could kill an airplane. All three problems wound up being solved, one way or another, for the next try against Pan Am 103.

And developments in air ravel after 1970 would solve another problem – low death tolls even with success. Companies like Boeing and Airbus would answer that in sevens and by 1988 and give both the US Navy and the PFLP-GC hundreds to kill at a time.[5]

Back to Business

After reportedly leaving Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-GC group in 1973, Marwan Khreesat remained quiet for twelve years. Then in 1985 he was reactivated by Jibril, and summoned to Syria to show his old altimeter-based skills with current technology.

Marwan Khreesat bought five Toshiba BomBeat 453 units, which have their own little story, but for our purposes they were housing only, and good-sized. It’s the timers and altimeters – only four of each - that mattered to Khreesat, and he selected these himself. The pricey detonators, tens of thousands of dollars apiece, were presumably provided. It was enough to re-create his fear-inducing 1970s innovation; he described the end results to FBI special agent Edward Marshman in November 1989:

"Of the five, two were almost ready to go; they only needed to have the pins pulled to arm them. One had only explosives inside with no altimeter or timer. The other two needed two wires to be connected."

After Khreesat built these devices, they were shown to Ahmed Jibril, who approved them. Khreesat then disassembled the devices, and the components were taken back to the PFLP-GC office.

Just when Marwan Khreesat started working for Jordanian intelligence is not clear, but when he was summoned again to Neuss in mid-1988, Khreesat came with instructions from his GID bosses in Amman. The people who in turn met with friends at the CIA, MI6, etc. told him to only build fake bombs while working undercover within the PFLP-GC. But things didn’t work out so smoothly – by Khreesat’s story: the terrorists gave him something more concrete than these instructions.

By Abu Elias Khreesat was given a sense that he’d be caught making fake bombs, and from cell leader Hafez Dalkamouni he was given his old materials from 1985. The timers and altimeters were the same, and the five detonators were probably also the same. He was also given one of his five BomBeat453s to re-wire, so one IED was of completely recycled materials.

Working between 22 and 25 October 1988, Khreesat thus made four altimeter bombs total in Neuss: this 453 unit, two hidden in Ultrasound radios, and one inside a Sanyo computer monitor. All three of these housings were bought in two second-hand shops in Dusseldorf on 18 October 1988, says Khreesat. The rigged 453 was seized on October 26 in the 'Autumn Leaves' raid, when Khreesat and Dalkamouni were arrested. The other three IEDs were only found months later in 1989. Only the "fifth device", which Khreesat barely touched (he says) is unaccounted for. First we’ll look at the specs of Khreesat’s four bombs, element-by-element, and then briefly at what can be gleaned about the other one.

Detonators

In addition to the BomBeat radio, monitor, Ultrasound tuners, timers, and altimeters brought to Khreesat on 22 October 1988, my portion of Marshman’s report makes no mention of "detonators". It does however say "Dalkamoni also brought in four blasting caps that were electrical". I’m not explosives expert enough to know if that means detonators. All I know is they’re the expensive part of the bomb, and the part Khreesat seems less interested in.

Altimeters

These were provided to Khreesat in Neuss. He mentions in his report:

Four altimeters which were made in Japan. [p 17]

Marshman’s report specified "the altimeters are the same ones he had in 1985," and Khreesat "does not know how, when, or by whom these altimeters were smuggled into Germany." [p 32] He does however note that Dalkamoni was the last stop, handling all Khreesat’s supply needs.

I’ve seen nothing to differentiate the altimeters one from another, and at the risk of error will consider them to all work the same. All I have at the moment to show how they were set is from David Leppard’s "On the Trail of Terror". The altimeter from the 453 was tested by the BKA’s Dr Rainer Göbel in a vacuum chamber:

"The circuit would close at a pressure between 940 and 950 millibars - equivalent to an altitude of about 2,400 feet." [p 11-12] It’s tentative, and Leppard is sometimes wrong, but I can work with this for now.

Ice-Cube Timers

The timers are of interest here, and somewhat more complex. The units themselves were basic – a simple electrical capacitor encased in clear plastic resin, its appearance led to the nickname "ice cube timer". The timer’s built size determines its resistance to electrical charge and thus the time until it "discharges". Precise details of that process aside, the time delay is unchangeable but reliable.

These Khreesat picked up himself, as he told FBI agent Edward Marshman:

"The timers were made by the Fatah group in Damascus. He first saw these timers at the PFLP-GC camp in Syria and four of them were good, so he took them to use." [p32] Like the altimeters, they came back to him in Germany but he doesn’t know how. Where it gets complex is when Khreesat explains how the timers vary one unit to the next as far as time delay:
One of the timers was a half-hour timer, one was for three-quarters of an hour, and one was for one-hour. Khreesat does not recall what time the fourth timer was set for. None of the timers were for more than one hour. […] Of the four timers he used in the IEDs in Germany, he is not sure of the exact times each one was set for, or which device which timer was put into.

It’s possible to tackle the question of "which device which timer was put into," but first we must address another issue. Just from the seized BomBeat 453’s timer we have a range, not a set time. Again, David Leppard cites Dr Göbel’s findings: :"The time delay of the electronic component fluctuates over a wide margin since the structure of the circuit is relatively simple. Time delays between 35 and 45 minutes were measured." [p 11-12] This variation of a supposedly set-in-stone delay might be explained by Khreesat, again via Marshman:

"Khreesat advised that the times are not exact and the time changes depending upon how long the timers have been tested after last being used. They usually reset to zero after a day. He used to test the timers three times in a row before installing the timer in a device. He found that in each test the time decreased. When this happened, he put the timers aside, and the next day when he tested them, they would run for the same time as when he had first started them."

Time delay then varies, with a starting baseline (long time) and shortening with repeated tests carried out too soon. Unless someone was testing it in the field just before use, the long time is what would elapse before detonation.

Timer/Housing Reconciliation

Therefore if Göbel found a range 35-45 minutes for one timer, and Khreesat’s roster can be trusted, that’s the 45-minute unit. That was in the seized BomBeat, leaving for the other three a 30-minute one, a 60-minute, and another he can’t remember, but one-hour at most.

The Sanyo monitor was seized intact and just as available for study, but its results are less clear. Dr Göbel’s notes were read back in part at the Camp Zeist trial, and he include this on the Sanyo's ice cube: “Calculated on the basis of the values of the built-in components, the delay time is put at between 30 and 35 minutes.” [Zeist transcripts p 8769] That’s not a range of test results, but a range of estimates based on, it seems, looking at the circuit. If Khreesat is right, this would most likely be the 30 minute unit.

The two Ultrasound radios were not read as clearly – one defied a top BK explosives expert (Sonntag) and blew him to bits, while nearly killing an assistant. Perhaps some clues from that chain of events could tell us if this is the 60 minute timer or the mystery one. The other Ultrasound was purposefully destroyed, for safety and psychological reasons. But one of the two Ultrasounds (it’s unclear which) did yield enough of its timer for Göbel to note:

"The accompanying capacitor is of the same value as in 1 [BomBeat] and 2 [monitor], but has however, jumped out of circuit. […] it can be assumed from the remains of the circuit that the time delay was in the same region as 1 and 2." [Leppard p 144]

To fit with the above, that’s a possible 30 or 45-minute timer, which are both represented by Göbel’s units 1 and 2. This out-of-circuit timer would be the one Khreesat didn’t remember, likely a duplicate of either the 30 or 45. The other Ultrasound then contained the 60-minute timer, if this should all tie up so neatly (don’t count on it).

The Fifth Device

All of the above is fairly academic for understanding the Lockerbie bombing. As noted, all four of these units were intercepted by police, three of them without fatalities. The fifth mystery bomb is the only suspect here for that atrocity, and this bomb was apparently built by Abu Elias rather than by Khrresat. But his work is said to have informed Abu Elias.

Khreesat does give some details of this unit, which help very little in understanding it. He mentions an altimeter, partly visible under the cassette bay, no mention of timer, but parts of the circuit board and transformer were removed, and some modifications concealed under little cardboard boxes. Khreesat was unable to study it closer, as Dalkamouni stood over him the whole time he soldered two simple wires. This bomb has never been tested in a laboratory setting to determine its settings.

If used on Pan Am Flight 103, however, the results can be observed from what happened on that December night. If we presume the same altimeter setting, which I did earlier but now seems unjustified, it would start the ice cube charging at about 2400 feet altitude. This low level was reached about two minutes after leaving the ground, according to the AAIB report’s altitude profile (see Thirty-Eight Minutes).

The bomb detonated 36 minutes after that point, so if we also presume a Khreesat-style ice cube timer, and presuming this hadn’t been tested before deployment, 36 or perhaps 35 minutes would be its baseline time. It doesn’t even have to fit Khreesat’s four from the Fatah factory, in their neat quarter-hour time units. Perhaps there was no timer, just an altimeter set to 31,000 feet. But whatever exactly was going on inside it, it is apparently modeled after Khreesat’s 1980s work, and might then be expected to behave about like one of his bombs. And of course whatever blew up PA103 behaved in just that way.[6]

Three Times an Agent

Iran’s non-involvement in the Pan Am 103 bombing is one of the few points Washington and Tehran can publicly agree on, while both secretly knowing better. Following the July 1988 shoot-down of Iran Air Flight 655, "accident" was not accepted and vengeance was vowed. And as former Iranian president Abdulhassan Bani Sadr told The Maltese Double Cross in 1994:

"Iran ordered the attack and Ahmed Jibril carried it out." [1]

If Ahmed Jibril, leader of the PFLP-GC, did carry out the attack, as it seems he was planning, it was through his right-hand man Hafez Dalkamouni. And Dalkamouni’s known plans to that end, operating in West Germany in October 1988, relied on the airliner-bombs made by the experienced Jordanian expert Marwan Khreesat.

Marwan Khreesat reportedly produced five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Germany during late October 1988. These were apparently all triggered by an altimeter and timer so that the detonation would occur once the plane was well airborne, around 35-45 minutes after take-off. Pan Am 103 fell apart 38 minutes after taking off from Heathrow. Scottish police and the FBI did reject this direct clue as they decided the bomb had first come in from Frankfurt and probably somewhere else before that, and didn’t blow up then. But Scottish police did continue to suspect that a Khreesat bomb, with some hypothesised modification, had gone aboard in Germany.

Paul Foot, in "Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice" (2001), cited a report compiled by the Dumfries and Galloway police in March 1989, referring to Khreesat, then living freely in Jordan after fleeing from Germany, as "a suspect” they’d like to interview:

"There can be little doubt that Khreesat is the bomb-maker for the PFLP-GC," the report is quoted, "and there is a possibility that he prepared the explosive device which destroyed Pan Am 103. As such he should not be at liberty." [2]

One of Ours

By now of course Marwan Khreesat has been officially absolved of suspicion and remains fully at liberty. To be sure, he made five deadly altimeter-triggered airliner bombs on behalf of the PFLP-GC, just weeks before the bombing of Pan Am 103. But he did so undercover, for friendly Jordanian intelligence, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). In testimony at the Camp Zeist trial on 5 December 2000 FBI Special Agent Edward Marshman confirmed that Khreesat "would be what we refer to as a — commonly as a double agent, yes." [3]

Originally listed as Crown witness 1157, Marwan Khreesat declined the invitation to appear at the trial, and a report written by Marshman took the place of Khreesat’s testimony. Based on Scots/FBI interviews with the bomb-maker on 12 and 13 November 1989, the report passes on Khreesat's word that "he was sent to Europe in order to infiltrate the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command; he was sent by the GID and was acting as an agent of the GID at all times". [4]

Scots police officer Detective Constable John Crawford, in "The Lockerbie Incident: A Detective's Tale" (2002) concluded:

"There is little doubt that he was a double-agent working for the Jordanian Intelligence Service." Further, Crawford spoke of "the integrity of Marwan Khreesat, who had assisted [Jordanian authorities] to help the West escape a bombing campaign in the late eighties." [5] It's highly ironic that he did this by building five airliner bombs, one of which was possibly slipped onto Pan Am Flight 103. But they were supposed to be phoney. Marshman’s Report, referring to a stay in Yugoslavia prior to entering Germany, stated:
"Before Khreesat left for Yugoslavia, he met his GID case officer, who instructed him not to arm any explosive devices while in Yugoslavia. He was told to build any improvised explosive device necessary, but he was instructed to alter the device so that it would not detonate even if used against an Israeli target. Khreesat was told by his case officer that he would be protected while in Yugoslavia."[6]

Apparently he was to assemble the bombs there ahead of delivery, but it seems the actual work was done later in Germany, and as we’ll see, they were indeed armed to the teeth. The Zeist judgment of 2001 explained: "The cell’s principal bomb-maker was one Marwan Khreesat who was in fact an agent who infiltrated the cell on behalf of the Jordanian Intelligence Service." They also expanded the geographical scope of his ordered harmlessness:

"His instructions from [GID] were that any bomb he made must not be primed." [7]

Even though he did arm the bombs he made, for whatever reason, it seems almost impossible to deny - if the Jordanian authorities are all in agreement and corroborated his employment and mission - then he was indeed official and undercover. So what did he do within that role?

Field Work

At Jibril’s request, Dalkamouni’s crew had gathered at Hashem Abbasi's flat in Neuss, West Germany (near Frankfurt) in early October to work on the airliner bombing plot. Khreesat first appeared at their flat on 13 October 1988 [8] German authorites watched the men for the next two weeks in Operation 'Autumn Leaves'. They were seen purchasing electronics and mysterious brown stuff, and meeting different people for unheard conversations. [9]

Marwan Khreesat’s history with the PFLP-GC was a key alarm; Steve Emerson and Brian Duffy wrote in 1990 "according to Israeli intelligence files, it is almost certain that Jibril, in 1970, was responsible for the very first plane bombing carried out with a barometer-triggered explosive," and this was done by "Merwad Abd Rezak Mufti Kreeshat" AKA Marwan Khreesat. On 21 February 1970 two flights from Europe to Israel were bombed the same day with radio-based IEDs. One crashed 15 minutes after takeoff, killing all 47 aboard, while the other was able to land. Khreesat struck again on 19 August 1972, with an El Al flight, Rome to Tel Aviv, that again failed to destroy the plane in mid-flight. Khreesat’s work there was decided to be concealed in a record player. [10]

It’s not clear if he was a double or single agent at the time, but he did some more work in 1985, similarly modifying five Toshiba radios, model BomBeat 453. These were apparently just demos – Ahmed Jibril was shown how they were done, then Khreesat disassembled them, according to Marshman’s report. [11] And here he was three years later, apparently doing something again. On 19 October 1988, Dalkamouni made an intercepted phone call to contacts in Syria, and Khreesat popped on the line to announce "changes in the medicine" that had so far shown a high failure rate. [12] It was like the 1985 operation but for real - five concealed live bombs that were not meant to be broken back down.

According to Marshman’s report, only on 22 October 1988 did Khreesat get to work on building the bombs, after receiving five new electronic items, including "a Toshiba radio/cassette recorder … not in a new box." [13] As for the model, he was later shown a catalog and decided it "looked exactly like a model RT-F423 radio/cassette recorder. It was bronze in colour just like the model in the catalogue" that he was shown. He did specify some knob modifications in the one he saw. [14]

That same day, another player arrived in Nuess; "Khreesat never saw Abu Elias in Germany," Marshman’s report states, "but was told by Dalkamoni that Abu Elias had arrived. (This occurred on 22 October 1988)" [15] This mysterious terrorist was to link up with Khreesat’s bombs and arrange the airport security end, or how to get the IEDs onto the aircraft. [16]

It never was determined which target(s) they had in mind, but the police made their move on the evening of 26 October 1988. Khreesat and Dalkamouni were arrested on their way to meet Elias, with one altimeter bomb in the boot of their car. It was in a black Toshiba Bombeat 453 radio cassette recorder, with an altimeter set to detonate 312 grams of Semtex-H.[17] The base apartment and another were raided and over a dozen suspects taken in, along with a huge weapons and explosives cache, the largest "ever found in the Federal Republic". [18]

All the apartment arrestees but one – eleven total – were released by a Judge for lack of evidence. Besides Dalkamouni and Khreesat, only Abdel Ghadanfar, who claimed the weapons cache (educational props, he said), remained in custody. [19] And then Khreesat made his one phone call and soon the German authorities were getting a call from Jordanian intelligence asking for their man back. And he was sent back, leaving two of fourteen.

And that's just the people. Only the altitude-triggered bomb radio in Dalkamouni’s car was recovered. As far as anyone knew, all that trouble had been to build only one deadly bomb, and that was safely in custody.

Lost in the Shuffle?

Then, less than two months after Marwan Khreesat stepped off the plane back in Jordan, another plane was destroyed just after leaving Heathrow airport in London on the Winter Solstice. The 'Autumn Leaves' had been shaken down, raked, sorted, and bagged, it had seemed. Now one could wonder if a stray leaf had drifted across the channel and lighted in the belly of Pan Am 103. What if those Neuss bombers had made a second bomb?

Emerson and Duffy reported that unspecified US intelligence officials learned "in the early part of February [1989]," that "Marwan Kreeshat had surfaced," and was ready to help. "And this is what the man said: He had made five bomb in Germany, not one. At least that’s what the Jordanians told the US officials." [20] A sworn statement followed to clarify that's what he meant to say, stating that if they hadn’t been intercepted already, the remaining IEDs were still in the Neuss flat - the one that was raided for suspected bomb-radio-type work.

This spurred the FBI to urge the German BKA to find the remaining bombs. After initially insisting there could be no more, they finally re-checked the Abbassi home (or rather, his storage by then) and found two suspect radio tuners on 13 April 1989. [21] In an inexplicable episode at BKA headquarters, a bomb tech named 'Sonntag' was killed and another (Ettinger) was maimed while trying to defuse one of these on 17 April 1989. [22] Following this unusual scare, the BKA destroyed the other bomb in revenge rather than study it, and again checked Abbasi’s storage for anything electronic at all. They netted another IED, again with Semtex and altimeter, this time concealed in a computer monitor. [23]

On 26 April 1989 Hafez Dalkamoni, still in custody, was told he might be charged with the murder of 'Sonntag' and agreed to talk. But then he said the bombs were to go back to Israel to kill Israelis in the high mountains. [24] Khreesat in Jordan was giving them details but they weren’t encouraging; if indeed there were five airliner bombs built, the tally is thus – one captured in October, three found later in Neuss, leaving a fifth one unaccounted for. Writing in early 1990, Emerson and Duffy filled in the gap with "the fifth bomb, investigators believe, blew up […] over Lockerbie." [25] So how did, or would, this slip through the double-agent’s careful control? Marshman’s report, again from Khreesat’s own self-exculpation, said for 24 October 1988:

"Around 2.00pm Khreesat took a shower. When Khreesat was in the shower, Dalkamoni knocked on the door and said that he was leaving to go to Frankfurt. After getting out of the shower, Khreesat went back to work on the IEDs. At this time he noticed that the fifth device was no longer in the workroom. He did not pay a lot of attention to this, as he was thinking about the upcoming meeting with Abu Elias. Khreesat speculated that Dalkamoni took the fifth device with him, as only Khreesat and Dalkamoni ever went into the room. After working on the IEDs until late that evening, Khreesat went to bed." [26]
"[The following day] Khreesat told his case officer that he had prepared a device and given it to Abu Elias. Khreesat advised that he had assumed that the fifth device went to Abu Elias, as related above." [27]

So believing Elias was already given one bomb on the 24th, and telling his handlers on the 25th, Agent Marwan went along to bring a second one on the 26th until he was intercepted by the BKA. "Khreesat told the Germans that they should have waited one more day to make the arrests," Marshman’s report noted, "as Dalkamoni was on the way to meet Abu Elias when they were arrested." [28] The arrest being too soon might be a good complaint if he was talking minutes and miles - they could've ambushed them right and got all three. But he said "one more day," by which time Elias might well be gone with his two bombs. Khreesat had met Elias before, in Syria he says, and was able to help the GID make a composite sketch. [29] He’s never been found.

If this is undercover work, it’s sloppy, and sloppy with bombs is no good. For whatever reason, Khreesat clearly broke the rule against making live bombs, left them lying around amongst known terrorists who wanted to use them, and waited a day before alerting anyone that one of his pieces had disappeared. Khreesat may have been working to help the West, but certainly not with any coordination to ensure a tight net collected all the bombs and runners. The German BKA had no idea of his supposed operation, and didn’t even know there were plural devices. Neither Khreesat nor the GID apparently let them know this basic fact, as a note on the way out or at any time until after the Lockerbie bombing. Such negligence could easily lead to a tragedy like that, and to charges of being a triple agent – only playing at playing the PFLP-GC.

But however murky all of this is, the FBI and the Scots agreed with Khreesat that his bombs were not responsible, and there is one overriding reason for this.

Just Not His Style

The main things that helped the case shift away from a Khreesat bomb was the physical evidence that had been involved in the explosion. Or at least said to have been. Again, the official device was probably 450-650 grams Semtex-H, triggered by a Libyan-linked MST-13 timer, set in a Libya-linked Toshiba RT-SF16 model radio. We can be sure since the whole front page of its manual survived.

The manual is what convinced the judges of the radio make, and its supposed Libya clues helped them, in small part, hand down the guilty verdict for al-Megrahi. As to why they could easily brush the PFLP-GC and its bomb-maker aside, they explained:

"Moreover, while he himself did not give evidence, there was evidence of a statement given by him to FBI agents (production 1851) in which he said that he never used radio cassette players with twin speakers (such as the Toshiba RT-SF 16 had) to convert into explosive devices." [30]

Please! He's used radios, record players, computer monitors, vacuum cleaners for all we know. But he couldn't possibly use a radio cassette player with two speakers? Near the trial’s end, the Crown’s Mr Campbell re-explained how "An examination of the evidence makes it clear that the components available to the PFLP-GC were of a quite different variety. The radios were of a single-speaker version, and indeed the fifth device described by Khreesat was of a single-speaker type." The timer used by the PFLP-GC was known as an ice-cube timer and was used in conjunction with a barometric device. It was a very unsophisticated and unstable device. Mr Orkin of the CIA explained the difference between such a timer and the highly sophisticated MST-13 timer on day 71, 8804." [31] After discounting the possible Stasi link that some have wondered as a route to get the timers to the PFLP-GC, Campbell summarised:

"There is, therefore, in my submission, no evidence that would raise a reasonable doubt in Your Lordships' mind with respect to" the PFLP-GC and their friend Mr Khreesat as suspects. [32]

Marshman’s report concluded:

"Khreesat advised that he does not know what type of device was used to bring down Pan Am Flight 103" and that "he does not think he built the device responsible for Pan Am 103, as he only built the four devices in Germany which are described herein." [33]

As Paul Foot aptly noted "‘Described herein’, however, were not four devices but five, and the missing one was disguised 2as a Toshiba cassette recorder. [34] It wasn’t a RT-SF16, so that point is a bit moot, but still he admitted there was a bomb missing. DC John Crawford described a later trip to Jordan, in mid-2000. This "walking-on-eggshells job" was described thus:

"It was obvious that what was required was for him to testify that he had no part in building the bomb that blew up Pan Am 103, it was a totally different bomb than the ones he had built in the 1970s and 1980s, the timer was also much different from the ones he favoured in his bombs." [35]

Indeed, what was found by RARDE folks like Thomas Hayes and Alan Feraday was not Agent Marwan’s style. He did not use Libyan-linked RT-SF16s with two speakers, small spaces, and indestructible paper manuals. He didn’t use Libyan-linked MST-13 timers to send the bomb from Malta through Frankfurt to London, by way of Libyan agents using the brown suitcase Giaka saw. His bombs had no special powers to blank out Frankfurt's luggage records, nor to replace the Bedford suitcases in their corner of luggage container AVE4041. This, in fact, makes them more real, and dangerous, and worth consideration.

There is no real disconnect between the PFLP-GC’s bomb and the one on Pan Am 103 if we accept the following: one Khreesat bomb slipped away, was packed into a copper-brown hardshell Samsonite and transported by surface to London. There it was slipped into the most dangerous corner of AVE4041 two hours before the plane took off. All we need then for all the evidence to match up is to disappear the remains of that RT-F423-like radio (around 550 grams of Semtex might do that) and introduce the implausibly large timer and radio chunks that indicate Libya with such cartoonish clarity (certain RARDE operatives might do that).

References
  • [1] The Maltese Double Cross. Produced, written, and directed by Allan Francovich, Hemar Enterprises, released November 1994. 2 hours, 36 minutes. Quote at 34:00 mark. Google Video
  • [2] Paul Foot. "Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice" Private Eye, 2001. 30 pages.
  • [3] IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY AT CAMP ZEIST - Case No: 1475/99: HER MAJESTY’S ADVOCATE v ABDELBASET ALI MOHMED AL MEGRAHI and AL AMIN KHALIFA FHIMAH. Camp Zeist (Kamp van Zeist), The Netherlands, 3 May 2000 to 31 January 2000. Computerised transcription of the proceedings using LiveNote. 10,241 pages in 86 volumes. Copyright 2000, Scottish Court Service. Anonymous donation to The Lockerbie Divide. Day 76, December 5 2000. Edward Marshman, witness no. 540. p 9259
  • [4] ibid. p 9272
  • [5] John Crawford. "The Lockerbie Incident: A Detective's Tale" Trafford Publishing 2002. 351 pages. Gogle Books pp 160, 163
  • [6] See [3], p 9273
  • [7] Opinion of the Court. Delivered 31 January 2001. PDF link: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/library/lockerbie/docs/lockerbiejudgement.pdf
  • [8]Emerson, Steven and Brian Duffy "The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation" New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1990. p 208.
  • [9] ibid. pp 128-29
  • [10] ibid. pp 114-115
  • [11] Transcripts, Day 76, pp 9275-76
  • [12] Emerson and Duffy, p 129
  • [13] Transcripts, Day 76, pp 9254-55
  • [14] Transcripts, Day 76, p 9268
  • [15] Transcripts, Day 76, p 9244
  • [16] Transcripts, Day 76, 9250
  • [17] Transcripts, Day 72 (November 20 2000), pp 8829-31, also Leppard p. 11
  • [18] Emerson and Duffy p 132
  • [19] Emerson and Duffy p 133
  • [20] Emerson and Duffy pp 176-77
  • [21] Emerson and Duffy p 206
  • [22], [23] Emerson and Duffy p 208
  • [24] Emerson and Duffy p 209-10
  • [25] Emerson and Duffy p 255
  • [26] Transcripts, Day 72 p 9258
  • [27] Transcripts, Day 72 p 9260
  • [28] Transcripts, Day 72 p 9244
  • [29] Transcripts, Day 72 p 9264
  • [30] See [7]
  • [31], [32] Transcripts, Day 79 (January 10, 2001), p 9525-26
  • [32] p 9525-26
  • [33] Transcripts, Day 76, p 9268
  • [34] Paul Foot. "Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice". Private Eye, 2001. 30 pages. p 23.
  • [35] Crawford, p 160[7]

Khreesat on Facebook

On 19 April 2014 The Times of Israel reported that "Marwan Khreesat, tied to PFLP-GC airplane bombings in 1970s, was arrested just before Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up in 1988. Now he’s promising explanations":

The man investigators initially believed built the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie 25 years ago maintains a Facebook page on which he recently posted pictures of the Lockerbie bombing and promised to write about the circumstances of the attack.[8]
Marwan Khreesat, who now lives in Jordan, was arrested but bizarrely released by German police two months before the Lockerbie bombing as part of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command cell found in possession of bombs designed to blow up airliners.
He writes frequent posts condemning Israel, the Palestinian Authority for dealing with Israel, the Assad regime and others. Late last year, he also castigated PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril, for whom he allegedly built several bombs used to blow up airplanes in the 1970s, accusing Jibril of abandoning the Palestinian cause in siding with the Assad regime.
Last week, Khreesat posted an entry boasting about the PFLP-GC’s bombing of an El Al plane from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1972, describing the attack as "a challenge to the Israeli intelligence agents who are responsible for searching luggage and everything that goes on a plane."
It was subsequently established that the 1972 El Al bomb — designed to explode when the plane reached a certain altitude — had been hidden in a record player which two British women had been duped into carrying by two Arab men who were later arrested. Although the bomb exploded, the pilot was able to make an emergency landing.
"It was a successful blow against the Israeli enemy," Khreesat wrote in a March 14 Facebook post, in which he also described spending time with Jibril in Rome as they waited for the attack to unfold.
In several posts relating to Lockerbie in recent weeks, Khreesat recalled his arrest two months before the 21 December 1988 bombing and posted pictures of the destroyed cockpit of the 747 after the explosion, the painstakingly reconstructed parts of the plane wreckage, and a radio-recorder like the one that held the bomb. He also asked a series of unanswered questions about the attack:
"Who did the operation?" he asked in a post on the 25th anniversary of the blast. "Israel? Iran? Libya? Who carried the Toshiba explosive device [in which the bomb was hidden]? … Did the explosive device come from Malta airport like the American intelligence agencies say?… When will these riddles be solved."
Last October, Khreesat posted that he intended to "write about Pan Am 103," including "who was on the flight and the circumstances of the incident."
British and American investigators initially believed that the PFLP-GC had blown up the plane, in which all 259 people on board and 11 more on the ground were killed, and suggested the attack had been ordered by Iran to avenge the mistaken downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by the USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf six months earlier in which 290 people were killed.
Later, however, suspicion switched to Libya, and to a former Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Megrahi was convicted and jailed in 2001 after a trial in which his fellow alleged Libyan conspirator, Lamin Fhimah, was acquitted. He died in 2012 still insisting on his innocence.
In 2007, a Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found a series of grounds to justify concerns that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. The process by which Megrahi was identified has been widely criticised, and the authenticity of a timer fragment central to the implication of Libya in the plot has been increasingly questioned.
An Al Jazeera documentary last week (Lockerbie: What Really Happened?) implicated the PFLP-GC in the bombing, and a former Iranian intelligence officer, Abolghasem Mesbahi, who defected to Germany in the 1990s, alleged that Iran had commissioned it, stating that "Iran decided to retaliate (for the downing of its own Flight 655) as soon as possible. The decision was made by the whole system in Iran and confirmed by Ayatollah Khomeini."
Khreesat originally agreed to be interviewed for the documentary, the program-makers said, but later refused to do so, and was quoted in the film saying:
"All of my problems are because of Lockerbie."[9]

See also

 

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References

  1. "Marwan Khreesat and his Bombs"
  2. Emerson, Steven and Brian Duffy "The Fall of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation" New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1990. 304 pages. pp 114-116.
  3. "Beilagen Über den unfall Des Swissair-Flugzeuges Convair Convair 30 A (CV-990 A" HB-1CD, Vom 21 Februar 1970, Bei Würenlingen / AG
  4. "Wikipedia - Swiss Air 330"
  5. "The Birth of Airborne Death"
  6. "The Evolution of the Khreesat Bomb (1985-88)"
  7. "Marwan Khreesat: How Many Times an Agent?"
  8. "Marwan Khreesat on Facebook"
  9. "‘Bomb-maker’ brags about El Al blast, posts Lockerbie photos"