BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg
"For precisely one hour a solemn requiem for the dead"
 real 28k

BBC Scotland's Reevel Alderson
"Police originally thought the bomb may have been planted by Palestinian terrorists"
 real 28k

Friday, 5 May, 2000, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Aircraft bomb 'links' explored
Police at cockpit
Police sought parallels with the Lockerbie bombing
Police investigating the Lockerbie disaster began to gather information on similar bomb attacks involving a Palestinian group within days of the tragedy.

Retired detective chief inspector Gordon Ferrie told the trial of two Libyans accused of the bombing that it was treated as a murder inquiry from the day after it happened.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command became an early "focus of attention" because of arrests of some of its members in Germany just two months before Pan Am 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Bomb caused widespread devastation

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, have pleaded not guilty to murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act.

In a special defence, they have alleged that they know those responsible for the atrocity and have named a number of individuals and organisations.

On the third day of the trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, Mr Ferrie told how he and other officers went to Rome and Germany to gather information on similar bombings.

They learned that a member of the PFLP-GC, known as Marwan Kreeshat, had been jailed for 18 years in his absence for his part in placing a bomb in a record player on an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv in 1972.

He had been arrested by the Germans in October 1988, but released in December, before the Lockerbie bombing later that month.

Gordon Ferrie
Gordon Ferrie: Probed Rome incident

Mr Ferrie confirmed that he had been sent to Rome twice to study the El Al incident, in which two British girls had been befriended by three men, including Marwan Kreeshat, and persuaded to take a record player on board the plane, unaware it contained a bomb.

El Al security measures ensured the record player went into the bomb-proof luggage hold, instead of into the passenger cabin.

It exploded at about 13,000ft, but although the device blew a hole in the passenger floor, the plane landed back at Rome safely.

Mr Ferrie brought some of the Italian evidence in the case back to Lockerbie, including part of an altimeter which had been used in the bomb's trigger.

Questioned by Richard Keen QC, representing Mr Fhimah, Mr Ferrie said he had discovered that Kreeshat had been involved in other incidents "using improvised explosive devices", including the bombing of a plane using a Toshiba radio cassette recorder modified to act as a bomb.

Emergency team
Bodies and debris were spread over miles

The Lockerbie trial indictment accuses Mr Al Megrahi and Mr Fhimah of placing an "improvised explosive device" concealed inside a Toshiba radio cassette recorder on board an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, labelled for onward connection to the New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 at Heathrow.

Mr Ferrie said he could not answer whether Kreeshat was a Middle Eastern intelligence agent or not.

Re-examined by Alan Turnbull QC, prosecuting, Mr Ferrie agreed that there were sufficient "pieces of evidence" in the cases to interest the Lockerbie investigators.

But he added that these came a stage when the inquiry led officers in a direction other than the PFLP-GC.

The trial also heard on Friday how officers had been engaged in a hazardous search for bodies after Pan Am 103 fell to earth, with victims and debris spread over a massive area.

Earlier on Thursday, a leading state department official denied that the United States had made a deal with Libyan Leader Col Gaddafi to avoid prosecutors exploring Libyan government involvement.

"I can say with complete confidence that there is no deal," Ronald E. Neumann, an assistant secretary of state, repeatedly told a Senate foreign relations sub-committee.

Colonel Gaddafi said on Wednesday that he had made an "agreement" with the US and Britain.

The trial continues.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

04 May 00 | Middle East
The Palestinian connection
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other World stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more World stories