gaddafi lockerbie bomber megrahi 248 88.
(photo credit: Screen shot)
Adding more heat to the boiling controversy in the US and UK over Britain's recent release to Libya of the only man ever convicted in the Lockerbie bombing, the senior FBI agent in the case has told The Jerusalem Post he believes Libya's Col. Muammar Gaddafi must have personally sanctioned the atrocity.
In a telephone interview from the United States, Richard Marquise, a 31-year FBI veteran who led the US task force probing the December 1988 blast which destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, with the loss of 270 lives, said it was unthinkable in a regime such as Libya for that kind of major terrorist attack to have been authorized without Gaddafi's approval.
"If you were a senior minister, would you do this without telling the boss? I doubt it," said Marquise. "I have to think [Gaddafi] knew something was going to happen, something that the US would be pissed about, and he said OK."
Marquise has repeatedly stated his belief that Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer who is the only man ever convicted in the attack, was guilty as charged. Megrahi was released from a life sentence in Scotland on compassionate grounds last month, and warmly embraced by Gaddafi on his return to Libya.
Marquise told the Post he was also convinced Megrahi was no "rogue" agent.
He said investigators had tried to pursue the chain of responsibility up through the Libyan hierarchy - much as Alberto Nisman, the Argentinean prosecutor investigating the 1994 AMIA Jewish community office bombing, had managed to do - but had been unable to muster the necessary evidence. Nisman's investigations persuaded Interpol two years ago to issue a series of arrest warrants for senior Iranian officials allegedly behind the AMIA blast, including Iran's new Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, whose appointment was approved by Iranian lawmakers on Thursday.
In the case of Lockerbie, Libya and Gaddafi, said Marquise, "We couldn't make the connections... A lot of names came up... We had names of people in the Libyan hierarchy, buying radios, making inquiries about putting bombs in radios." The bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103 was hidden in a Toshiba radio cassette player. "But there was no real overt act [that could serve as the basis for an indictment]."
It "would have been nice" to indict the entire Libyan regime, Marquise added, "but our system wouldn't allow for it. It would have been a real struggle to show Gaddafi and others in the [Lockerbie] chain."
Marquise said it had been hoped that Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhima, a second Libyan charged in the Lockerbie affair but acquitted, could be arrested before being indicted, and that "they'd give us the whole story, and go up the chain. That didn't happen... And Megrahi never talked. He did everything for his leader."
The 270 Lockerbie victims included 180 Americans, 52 Britons and one Israeli.
The US has slammed Britain for allowing Megrahi to return to Libya, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had spent months trying to thwart the move, describing it as "absolutely wrong."
FBI Director Robert Mueller wrote a furious letter to the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who approved Megrahi's release, saying, "Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world... Your action rewards a terrorist even though he never admitted to his role in this act of mass murder and even though neither he nor the government of Libya ever disclosed the names and roles of others who were responsible."
Marquise, a counterterrorism expert who wrote a book on the affair entitled Scotbom: Evidence and the Lockerbie Investigation, has also repeatedly rejected alternative explanations for the Lockerbie blast, many of which claim it was commissioned by Iran and carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
"I keep reading all these suggestions that evidence was planted, that it was manipulated, twisted and changed," Marquise wrote recently. "But I got that evidence ready for the trial and I am absolutely convinced of its veracity."
(See Editor's Notes)