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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Lockerbie: Conspiracy theories
The reconstructed fuselage of the Flight 103
The reconstructed fuselage of the Flight 103
By BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala

The allegations that Iran, not Libya, was behind the Lockerbie bombing in December 1988 are not new.

But the assertion by a former Iranian intelligence official, Ahmad Behbahani, that he was responsible for all "terrorist" operations carried out by the Iranian Government beyond its borders - including the Lockerbie bombing - may have an impact on the current trial in the Netherlands of the two Libyan suspects in the case.

The prosecution alleges that a bomb was planted on Pan Am Flight 103 by the two, Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, alleged to have been members of the Libyan intelligence services.

The two accused, for their part, have consistently said they are innocent and pointed at Syrian-backed Palestinian extremists.

At the time of the bombing, however, it was Iran that was immediately the leading suspect.

Iran's alleged motive for carrying out the attack was assumed to be a desire for revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian civilian flight by the US warship, the Vincennes, killing all 290 passengers and crew aboard, on 3 July 1988.

Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini vowed at the time that the skies would "rain blood" in revenge.

Now, though, there are suggestions that Mr Behbahani might himself be motivated by a desire for revenge against the current Iranian government.

The Palestinian connection

Those who maintain that Iran was behind the attack say Tehran sponsored one of a number of radical Palestinian groups to actually carry out the attack.

Lockerbie devastation
Eleven people were killed when the plane came down on Lockerbie

Mr Behbahani told the CBS 60 Minutes programme he himself had first suggested the plan to bomb the Pan Am flight to Ahmad Jibril, who heads a Syrian-backed armed group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).

This organisation was a prime suspect in the immediate aftermath of the Lockerbie attack, but has denied any involvement.

Mr Behbahani also said Iran spent 90 days training a group of Libyans for the operation.

Three Scottish judges, and one in reserve
The trial is taking place before a team of Scottish judges, not a jury
This would fit in with another theory, that the Lockerbie bombing could have been ordered, planned and carried out by a coalition of Iranians, Libyans and Palestinians.

Libya is alleged to have been motivated by a desire to avenge the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi.

There are those who go even further, claiming that the trial at Camp Zeist is a cover-up of kinds, in which the two Libyan suspects are the 'fall-guys' in the whole affair, allowing any governments involved to claim that justice has been done, and the affair brought to a close.

The US and Israel

There is one more theory, more convoluted and startling than these, that brings Israel, the CIA and US Military intelligence, or the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), into the frame.

An internal investigation by Pan Am is believed to have found that the bomb planted on Flight 103 was put on the plane during a stop-over in Frankfurt, and not in Malta by the Libyan suspects, as alleged by the prosecution in the trial.

The Pan Am report is believed to have concluded that the bomb was not aimed at the killing of Americans in general, but was targeted specifically to kill a small band of DIA operatives that had uncovered a drugs ring run by a "rogue" CIA unit in Lebanon.

The CIA unit is alleged to have been selling drugs to raise funds to buy the freedom of six US hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon at the time.

The drugs-ring and the connection to Hezbollah is said to have been set up by Israeli Mossad agents.

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31 May 00 | World
Case 'not on container floor'
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