Drug Agency Checking Whether It Was Involved
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Drug Enforcement Administration says it is investigating whether one of its undercover couriers may have unknowingly carried the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.
The December 1988 bombing, which killed 270 people aboard the plane and in the village of Lockerbie, has been attributed by law enforcement authorities to a pro-Iranian terrorist group.
Investigators said the terrorist group put plastic explosive in a tape recorder in baggage that was shipped from Frankfurt, Germany.
NBC News, which first reported the new DEA 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. 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.
The drug agency and German authorities had arranged for Pan American World Airways’ baggage operation in Frankfurt to be used to put suitcases of heroin on planes, apparently without the usual security checks, NBC News said. It cited an unidentified ″airline source.″
In a statement late Tuesday, the DEA said it was aware of ″allegations made to the media″ that an agency operation was involved 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.
Spokesman Frank Shults said the agency hoped to know where it stands at about the end of this week.
A presidential commission on air terrorism reported in May it found no evidence of any involvement by the DEA 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.″
Pan Am 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.