Report Says Authorities Think Container With Bomb Loaded in Frankfurt
LOCKERBIE, Scotland (AP) _ Police said Tuesday they have identified the baggage container in which a bomb was planted aboard Pan Am Flight 103 and The Times of London said authorities believe it was first loaded in Frankfurt.
The jetliner blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground.
″We have now identified the baggage container within the aircraft in which the explosive device was placed, and substantial forensic and reconstructive work is being undertaken in this regard,″ Detective Chief Superintendent John Orr, the Scottish detective heading the investigation, told a news conference.
Orr refused to comment on whether the bomb was put on the plane in Frankfurt or London or on who police suspect planted it.
But early copies of Wednesday’s edition of The Times available Tuesday night reported: ″No details of the container, what else it held, where it was discovered or where it originated were given officially but police and accident investigators are now convinced that it was in luggage first loaded at Frankfurt.″
New York-bound Flight 103 originated in that West German city, transferring passengers and baggage to another plane on arrival at London’s Heathrow airport.
The Times said police think the bomb was no more than a few pounds of Czechoslovak-made Semtex explosive.
It said they think once a hole was blown in the side of the Boeing 747 and the electronics bay, the plane’s nerve center, was destroyed, the air pressure at 31,000 feet ripped the aircraft apart.
Investigators say the explosion occurred in the cargo area just in front of the left-hand wing.
Orr said about 10,000 items from the plane were recovered in searches across Scotland.
The Transport Department said on Dec. 28 that investigators found evidence of a bomb in the framework of a metal luggage pallet, the rack on which baggage is secured.
Orr said Scottish police are working with police in the United States and West Germany. He mentioned investigations in Scandinavia but would not elaborate.
″This investigation is widening on an international scale and over 3,000 witness statements have been collated,″ he said.
He was asked about a report in Glasgow’s Sunday Post newspaper quoting former Israeli intelligence official Raphael Eitan as saying he was sure the May 15 Palestinian group was responsible.
″There has been a lot of comment, some ill-informed, and I do not think it would be helpful to identify any group,″ Orr said.
Transport Minister Paul Channon has said the bomb probably contained Semtex, a powerful and hard-to-detect plastic explosive made in Czechoslovakia.
Orr agreed the explosive was ″a plastic of a high-technology type,″ but would not confirm it was Semtex.
Special Agent Harold Hendershot of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Helge Tepp of West German police also attended the news conference.
Hendershot said he was happy with the investigation’s progress.
Tepp noted that only the prosecutor heading the inquiry in Frankfurt was authorized to give information on the progress of inquiries there.
In Helsinki, Finland, Yasser Arafat said Tuesday his Palestine Liberation Organization is aiding the investigation. He did not elaborate.
Malcolm Rifkind, secretary for Scotland, said Tuesday the government will meet all costs in Lockerbie, where 10 homes were destroyed and 30 badly damaged in the crash.
He said in a letter to local legislator Sir Hector Monro that the cost of policing, emergency services and social work will be $12 million, besides $1.77 million already pledged for new homes and a fund for those who lost relatives.