Police Say Principal Witness in UTA Bombing Escaped
BRAZZAVILLE, Congo (AP) _ A principal witness who linked Libya to a 1989 bombing that killed all 170 people on a French airliner escaped more than a week ago, police have announced.
Police Chief Etienne Goma said Wednesday that the man, Bernard Yanga, was wrongly allowed by police officers to leave his cell to buy food and drinks at shops without a guard. He said Yanga disappeared Jan. 26.
Yanga, a Congolese national, had been held for two years without charges after telling authorities he helped Libyan intelligence agents smuggle a bomb aboard a DC-10 airliner owned by the French airline UTA. A French judge was to question him further next week.
Based on Yanga’s evidence, France issued warrants last fall charging four Libyans with participating in the bombing.
About the same time, the United States and Britain charged two Libyans in the 1988 bomb attack on a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.
All three nations have demanded that Libya turn over the men charged for trial. Libya has refused, saying it will try them under Libyan law.
Yanga told authorities that a friend, Apollinaire Mangatany, carried the bomb aboard the UTA plane in a suitcase in Brazzaville, thinking it contained secret documents, and was killed in the explosion.
However, sources in Brazzaville, who spoke on condition of anonymity, have said Mangatany may have gotten off the Paris-bound plane when it stopped in N’Djamena, capital of Chad. The jet blew up after leaving N’Djamena.
Authorities say Yanga and Mangatany received paramilitary and religious training together in Libya.
Yanga said the plot was directed by Libya’s charge d’affaires in Brazzaville at the time, Abdallah Elazragh, acting with other agents from the Libyan Embassy.