Secret documents show how US privately retained view that Iran was behind bombing

By John Davison | 20 December 2013

“Iran probably was the state sponsor for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) attack on Pan Am 103”
– Report, US Department of Defense

US intelligence privately believed that Iran was behind the Lockerbie bombing even after the police investigation publicly switched focus to Libya’s alleged role.

Exaro has obtained copies of secret documents that show how America’s intelligence community maintained its view that Iran commissioned – and paid for – the attack in 1988 on a Pan Am jumbo jet over a Scottish town.

They challenge the official version of events of the attack on Pan Am’s Flight 103, en route from London to New York, 25 years ago tomorrow. All 259 passengers and crew on the Boeing 747 were killed, together with 11 people on the ground.

Memorial services will mark the 25th anniversary tomorrow at Westminster Abbey, Lockerbie and in America.

A secret report produced by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in February 1991 named Iran’s former interior minister, Ali Akbar Mohtashemipur, as having paid for the attack in revenge for the shooting down five months earlier of an Iranian airliner by an American warship, the USS Vincennes, in the Persian Gulf.

The report says that Mohtashemipur, as a key figure in the Iranian government, was “closely connected” with Palestinian terrorists, specifically naming groups run by Abu al-Abbas and Abu Nidal.

It says: “He is actually a long-time friend of Au Nidal. He has recently paid 10 million dollars in cash and gold to these two organizations to carry out terrorist activities, and was the one who paid the same amount to bomb Pan Am Flight 103 in retaliation for the US shoot-down of the Iranian airbus.”

The DIA report – declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act – is significant because it was written two months after the official investigation publicly identified Libya as being behind the attack.

And it came at least four months after the US authorities linked Libya to Lockerbie through a fragment of circuit board for a timer, which was crucial to convicting Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the bombing in 2001.

A mounting body of evidence shows that the fragment of timer – supposedly one of a batch that Libya had bought – was fake.

Previously disclosed documents showed that US intelligence – at an early stage of the investigation – believed that Iran paid Palestinian terrorists to carry out the attack. For example, in September 1989,  the US Department of Defense said in a secret report that Mohtashemipur “conceived, authorised and financed” the bombing.

The department produced another secret report in December 1989, which said: “Iran probably was the state sponsor for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) attack on Pan Am 103.”

Last weekend, Exaro and the Sunday People revealed how a confidential report on an investigation led by a former senior prosecutor from America said that police were “directed off course” in their investigation into the Lockerbie bombing by government interference.

It also suggested that an Egyptian terrorist – Mohammed Abu Talb – was the real Lockerbie bomber.

Even as attention officially turned to Libya, America was privately putting pressure on Syria to hand over members of a Palestinian terrorist group that, US intelligence believed, had carried out the Lockerbie bombing.

A “defence intelligence terrorism summary” of September 15, 1990 reported on a meeting two days earlier in the Syrian capital of Damascus between James Baker, then US secretary of state, and Syria’s foreign minister.

The document records that Baker was pressing the Syrians to “turn over to US authorities” members of the PFLP-GC.

Syria pledged to do so, “if the US could produce proof of the group’s participation in the December 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing.”

The details are recorded under a section entitled: “PFLP-GC brought to justice?”

It continues: “The US is pressuring Damascus to discipline the PFLP-GC.”

“For each allegation, however, Damascus has demanded evidence of the PFLP-GC’s involvement in Pan Am 103. Although the US has provided evidence of PFLP-GC complicity, the Syrian government has dismissed it as insufficient.”

America maintained the pressure on Damascus at least until November 16, 1990 when, according to another “defence intelligence terrorism summary”, PFLP-GC’s leader, Ahmed Jibril, claimed that Syria had rejected demands to expel the group.

The document continues: “The US has long sought Jibril’s expulsion for his role in the bombing of Pan Am 103.”

John Davison was reporting from Lockerbie on the night of the attack for The Sunday Times.

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