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Saturday, 8 August, 1998, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
BBC screens Shayler interview
David Shayler
David Shayler spoke to the BBC before his arrest
The BBC has broadcast an interview with the former MI5 officier David Shayler in which he spoke about an alleged plot by the UK's Secret Intelligence Service to kill Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi.

The interview with Panorama was recorded before his arrest in France at the request of the UK Government. In it, he told how a 100,000 payment to an agent "Tunworth" funded a militant plot to murder Gaddafi.

The film was not broadcast until Friday because the government has an injunction designed, it says, to protect national security. The BBC decided to go ahead with the transmission after parts of the script were submitted to government solicitors, who gave authority to proceed.

"We are talking about tens of thousand pounds of tax-payers' money being used to attempt to assassinate a foreign head of state," Mr Shayler said.

He said he was told that authorisation for the plot by the SIS, the UK's overseas spying service, had come from the very top of the Foreign Office.

Trial in neutral country

The revelations, after investigations by BBC journalist Mark Urban, are among the most damaging against the security services for decades and will put further pressure on the government to examine allegations that it has dismissed as "inconceivable".

They could also jeopardise moves to try two Libyan men accused of the Lockerbie airline bombing, which killed nearly 300 people in 1988.

An announcement is imminent over whether, after years of negotiations, Libya will hand over the suspects for trial in a neutral country.

Mr Shayler said he was not worried about the effect his allegations would have on the case because having seen the intelligence reports he said there was no chance of the two being handed over.

But Dr Jim Swire, campaigning for the Lockerbie relatives, said: "It is now over 500 weeks since my daughter was murdered at Lockerbie and this week the head of the Arab League is discussing a neutral country trial under Scottish law with Gaddafi in Tripoli and the last thing we wanted were allegations that British organisations had been trying to kill him."

The full story

Mr Shayler joined MI5 in 1994, as part of the G9 section dealing with Libya.

At a joint meeting on Libya with the SIS he heard of an agent known as Tunworth.

Also at the meeting was PT16B, who controlled Tunworth and detailed Tunworth's collaboration with an extremist group in Libya trying to kill Colonel Gaddafi.

However the CX Report, circulated to officals, GCHQ and the Foreign Office, did not say that Tunworth was actively involved in the plot.

Mr Shayler later learned that as the assassination plot gathered pace, about 100,000 was given to Tunworth.

'Extremists killed'

In February 1996 a bomb was planted under Gaddafi's motorcade, but it exploded under the wrong car.

Several bodyguards were killed and in the ensuing gunbattle three extremists were reportedly killed.

Mr Shayler spoke of his surprise when told of the alleged plot.

He said: "I was absolutely astounded when I heard this was the case. My thinking up to then on the SIS was that they were involved in a sort of Boys' Own comic, and suddenly this was very real."

No political authority

Mr Urban obtained evidence that meetings did take place with PT16B, that Britian had advance knowledge of the attempt on Gaddafi's life and that Tunworth was a go-between with Islamic militant groups in Libya.

However, Foreign Office ministers at the time of the affair said they had not given any authorisation for a murder attempt.

Mr Urban concluded that one answer was that security services had acted without any political authority.

He said that the BBC had obtained other evidence of SIS activities, but these were withheld for security reasons.

BBC News
David Shayler explains his actions to the BBC's Panorama programme
BBC News
David Shayler: "Boys' Own comic"
BBC News
The BBC's Jeremy Ball reports on David Shayler's allegations
See also:

02 Aug 98 | UK
Former MI5 agent arrested
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