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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For its cover overseas, COREA used various front companies: Stevens Mantra Corp., AMA Industries, Wildwood Video and Condor Television Ltd. Condor paid its bills with checks drawn on the First American Bank (account No. 2843900) in Washington, D.C., which was subsequently discovered to be a subsidiary of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

According to Aviv, agents in COREA's Wiesbaden headquarters allowed al- Kassar to continue running his smuggling routes to American cities in exchange for help in obtaining the release of the American hostages being held in Lebanon. At about the same time, al-Kassar's drug-smuggling enterprise was being used by the U.S.'s DEA in a sting operation. The DEA was monitoring heroin shipments from Lebanon to Detroit, Los Angeles and Houston, which have large Arab populations, in an attempt to nail the U.S. dealers.

By the fall of 1988, al-Kassar's operation had been spotted by P.F.L.P.-G.C. leader Ahmed Jibril, who had just taken on the assignment from Tehran to avenge the U.S. downing of its Airbus. A CIA undercover agent in Tripoli reported that Jibril also obtained Gaddafi's support. According to Mossad, Jibril dined with al-Kassar at a Paris restaurant and secured a reluctant promise of assistance in planting a bomb aboard an as yet unselected American transatlantic jet.

Al-Kassar's hesitancy was understandable. He wouldn't want anything to disrupt his profitable CIA-assisted drug and arms business. Presumably he was also worried because West German police had just raided the Popular Front hideouts around Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. Among those arrested: the Jordanian technical wizard and bombmaker Marwan Khreesat.

The bomb that ended up on the Pan Am jet could have been assembled by Khreesat. However, last month the Palestine Liberation Organization reported that it was built by Khaisar Haddad (a.k.a. Abu Elias), who is also a member of Jibril's Popular Front. Haddad purchased the detonator, the P.L.O. said, on the Beirut black market for more than $60,000.

The detonator, in fact, is considered one of the main keys to the bombing puzzle. Thomas Hayes, a leading forensics expert, did the main detective work on a minute piece of timer recovered from the wreckage by Scottish authorities. In a recent book about the Lockerbie investigation, On the Trail of Terror, British journalist David Leppard reports that "Hayes is not prepared to commit himself publicly on whether the bomb that blew up Pan Am 103 was originally made by Khreesat and subsequently modified by timers of the sort found in possession of the Libyans." In fact, adds Leppard, "his authoritative view is that not enough of the bomb's timing device has been recovered to make a definite judgment about whether it was a dual device containing a barometric switch and a timer, or a single trigger device, which was activated by just a timer."

James M. Shaughnessy, Pan Am's lead defense lawyer, has tried to drive a wedge into this opening left by Hayes, thereby casting further doubt on Libya's responsibility for the bombing. Britain's High Court ruled that Pan Am's lawyers could depose Hayes. However, in a last-minute legal maneuver by the Scottish authorities, the deposition was blocked for reasons of national security. Pan Am's lawyers are now appealing that decision.

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