Pan Am 103 Why Did They Die?

Washington says Libya sabotaged the plane. Provocative evidence suggests that a Syrian drug dealer may have helped plant the bomb -- and the real targets were intelligence agents working for the CIA

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Also described in the teletype is an incident that "may provide insight into the possibilities of a rogue bag being inserted into the baggage system." On a guided tour of the baggage area in September 1989, it was disclosed, detective inspector Watson McAteer of the Scottish police and FBI special agent Lawrence G. Whitaker "observed an individual approach Coding Station 206 with a single piece of luggage, place the luggage in a luggage container, encode a destination into the computer and leave without making any notation on a duty sheet." This convinced the two investigators that a rogue suitcase could have been "sent to Pan Am 103 either before or after the unloading of Air Malta 180."

Lee Kreindler, the lead attorney for the victims' families, who are suing Pan Am for $7 billion, says he can prove that the suitcase from Malta was put aboard Flight 103. He charges that a gross security failure by Pan Am, which went bankrupt in January 1991 and later folded, contributed to the disaster.

But it was the rogue-bag theory that was pursued by Pan Am's law firm, Windels, Marx, Davies & Ives, representing the airline's insurers. To piece together their version of how the bomb was planted, Pan Am's lawyers hired Interfor, Inc., a New York City firm specializing in international intelligence and security. If it hadn't been for the government's implausible plottings revealed during the Iran-contra hearings, Interfor's findings might be dismissed as a private eye's imagination run amuck -- especially considering the controversial background of the company's president, Juval Aviv.

Now 45 and an American citizen, Aviv claims to have headed the Mossad hit squad that hunted down and killed the Arab terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Israeli and U.S. intelligence sources deny that Aviv was ever associated with Mossad. However, working for Pan Am, he spent more than six months tracking the terrorists who the airline now alleges are responsible for the bombing. While his report has been written off as fiction by many intelligence officials, a number of its findings appear well documented.

The central figure emerging from the Interfor investigation is a 44-year-old Syrian arms and drug trafficker, Monzer al-Kassar. His brother-in-law is Syria's intelligence chief, Ali Issa Duba, and his wife Raghda is related to Syrian President Hafez Assad.

Al-Kassar has many passports and identities. Most important, he was part of the covert network run by U.S. Lieut. Colonel Oliver North. During the Iran- contra hearings, it was revealed that al-Kassar was given $1.5 million to purchase weapons. Questioned about al-Kassar, former U.S. National Security Adviser John Poindexter said, "When you're buying arms, you often have to deal with people you might not want to go to dinner with."

It was through al-Kassar's efforts, or so he claimed, that two French hostages were released from Lebanon in 1986 in exchange for an arms shipment to Iran. The deal caught the eye of a freewheeling CIA unit code-named COREA, based in Wiesbaden, Germany. This special unit was reported to be trafficking in drugs and arms in order to gain access to terrorist groups.

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