Drug Agency Checking Whether It was Involved
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Drug Enforcement Administration said Tuesday night it is looking into the possibility that one of its undercover couriers carried the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland 22 months ago, perhaps without knowing it.
Two hundred seventy people aboard the plane and in the village of Lockerbie died in the December 1988 attack, attributed by law enforcement authorities to a terrorist group favorable to Iran.
The terrorist group put plastic explosive in a tape recorder in baggage that was shipped from Frankfurt, Germany, according to investigators
NBC News, which first disclosed the drug agency’s new investigation Tuesday night, said it had learned that Pan Am’s flights from Frankfurt had been used in a Cyprus-based undercover operation to fly informants and suitcases of heroin from the Middle East to Detroit.
Nazir Khalid Jafaar, 20, of Detroit, was killed in the bombing, and the network said part of the drug agency review was to determine whether he had been enlisted in the drug operation and whether he had been tricked into carrying the bomb.
Pan Am’s baggage operation in Frankfurt was used to put suitcases of heroin on planes, apparently without the usual security checks, under an arrangement between the drug agency and German authorities, the network said. It cited only an unidentified ″airline source″ for that statement.
In a statement read by spokesman Frank Shults, the Drug Enforcement Administration said it was aware of ″allegations made to the media″ to the effect that a DEA operation was used in the bombing.
″Although no evidence has surfaced to substantiate such a claim, we are conducting an inquiry into these allegations, including a review of case files and DEA operations and activities in the relevant time period,″ the statement said.
Answering questions, Shults said, ″I don’t know exactly when we’d have answers,″ but the agency hoped to know where it stands around ″the end of this week.″
The presidential commission on air terrorism last May reported it found no evidence of any involvement of the Drug Enforcement Administration with the bombing.
Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, said last November he had received an insurance investigator’s report that convinced him the Central Intelligence Agency had been tipped an attack might be made on the plane.
The report, he asserted, contended that the CIA was ″covering up a drug run″ between Frankfurt and New York - something the CIA immediately characterized as ″ridiculous.″
The airline subpoenaed documents from the DEA and five other agencies in an effort to prove that security agencies had received warnings about the bombings.
The judge in the victims’ lawsuit against the airline reviewed documents produced by those agencies, but found no basis for turning them over to Pan Am, said Steven Pounian, a lawyer representing victim families in the case in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Pounian declined to comment on Tuesday’s announcement by the drug agency.
Pamela Hanlon, spokeswoman for the airline in New York, also declined to comment.
The terrorist group, according to law enforcement agencies, was retaliating for the accidental shooting down of an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf the previous summer by a U.S. warship.