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1986: UK cuts links with Syria over bomb plot

The UK government has broken off diplomatic relations with Syria following revelations of official complicity in Nezar Hindawi's plot to blow up an El Al airliner.

Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe said in a statement there was "conclusive evidence" of Syrian official involvement with Mr Hindawi.

It is understood the bomb Mr Hindawi planned to use was constructed at the Syrian Embassy in London and that Mr Hindawi held a Syrian passport normally reserved for government officials.

The Syrian ambassador, Dr Loutof Haydar, said the decision to expel him was "nonsense".

The decision came just hours after Mr Hindawi was sentenced to 45 years in jail for plotting to blow up the Israeli airliner flight to Tel Aviv.

Mr Hindawi attempted to blow up the flight by planting a timer bomb inside his girlfriend's hand luggage. Ann Murphy had been under the impression that he would follow her on a later flight.

The explosives were only discovered when a security official searched the bag thinking it was too heavy. The 3lb of plastic explosives and a detonator concealed in a pocket calculator had made it through two X-ray machines undetected.


"This was a well planned, well organised crime"

Justice Mars-Jones

When the bomb was discovered Mr Hindawi went to the Syrian embassy in London where he was told he had done 'good things', taken to a safe house and given a disguise. He was caught when he left the safe house to go to a hotel.

The judge, Mr Justice Mars-Jones said: "This was a well planned, well organised crime which involved many others besides yourself, some of them people in high places."

"If your attempt had succeeded and that bomb had gone off then some 380 innocent civilians, men, women and children would have perished, including the woman you professed to love and who was carrying your child".

In Context
Following their expulsion the Syrian authorities admitted Mr Hindawi was carrying a Syrian passport in a false name and that two separate visa applications had official support.

It was also admitted that he met the ambassador immediately after the bomb's discovery and he then stayed in accommodation belonging to a member of the Syrian Embassy.

Syria responded to their expulsion by cutting all links with Britain, including closing airspace and sea ports to British planes and ships.

The expulsion of the Syrian Embassy official was the first time an ambassador had ever been removed for being involved in criminal activities.


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