URGENT Police: Pan Am Bomb was in Tape Recorder
LOCKERBIE, Scotland (AP) _ The bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21 was planted in a radio- cassette player and was probably loaded on the plane in Frankfurt, the detective heading the investigation said today.
Chief Superintendent John Orr refused to describe the size of the recorder, and he said it was not certain the bomb was put aboard in Frankfurt, where the flight originated.
But answering reporters’ questions, he said ″the balance of probabilities″ pointed to Frankfurt rather than London, where the New York- bound flight changed jets and took on new passengers.
All 259 people on board the plane and 11 people on the ground were killed when the Boeing 747, flying at 31,000 feet, exploded over Lockerbie.
On Feb. 8, the Jerusalem Post reported the bomb that destroyed the jet was hidden in a radio-cassette recorder and was traced to Frankfurt.
That report quoted unidentified investigators as saying the device was similar, but not identical, to one found earlier in the possession of members of Ahmed Jibril’s extremist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command.
The group has denied involvement in the blast.
″While there is insufficient evidence at this stage to establish the identity of the person or group responsible for this dreadful crime, the progress made and the evidence obtained has been substantial,″ Orr told a news conference. Asked whether the discovery would direct the investigation to a particular country, Orr said: ″It may.″
″The particular baggage which contained the device has not been identified at this stage, but there is the most detailed work under way, with forensic assistance, to achieve this identification,″ he said.
Orr said the baggage container had been reconstructed from pieces scattered over 40 miles of hills, forests and pasture east of Lockerbie, the town that bore the brunt of the flaming wreckage.
While not spelling out why he believed the bomb was planted in Frankfurt, Orr said: ″The reconstruction of the baggage container suggests that the explosive device may have been among the baggage from the Frankfurt flight.″
He said the container was filled mostly with baggage from Frankfurt and a small amount of ″inter-line″ baggage from connecting flights.
In response to Orr’s statement, Jochen Schroers of the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office said such suppositions ″don’t help us at all.″
″There is nothing new on our end,″ he added.
Orr said he was aware of ″certain aspects″ of the explosive used, but he would not elaborate.
Anti-terrorist experts have said the explosive most likely used was Semtex, an odorless, highly malleable substance made in Czechoslovakia and known to be in the hands of terrorist organizations.
Scottish police are heading an international investigation assisted by Scotland Yard anti-terrorist specialists, U.S. authorities and West German police.
The most persistent claim of responsibility has come from an anonymous caller who has repeatedly told international news agencies it was the work of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, an Iranian group.
Earlier this month, CBS News said Jibril was the principal architect of the bombing. Last month, the Hamburg newspaper Bild reported Jibril’s organization was involved.
In Montreal, the 33-member council of the International Civil Aviation Organization is meeting to discuss airline security in the wake of the bombing.
A draft resolution co-sponsored by Britain and the United States calls for improving technology of bomb-detection devices so they can detect plastic explosives.
The resolution questions whether computers, radios and other electronic devices should be allowed aboard aircraft since X-ray scanners cannot distinguish between concealed explosives and the devices’ components.