On This Day — Remembering UTA Flight 772 (September 19 1989)

“With respect to UTA 772, the U.S. Government concluded that  the method of operation employed in the downing of that aircraft in September 1989 was similar in virtually all important respects to that used to destroy Pan Am 103 in December 1988, including the responsibility of the Libyan Government for the planning of the bombing, the assembly of the explosive device, and the carrying out of the operation. Specifically, Libya used intelligence agents with airline and explosives experience to plan, coordinate, and execute the planting of a “boobytrapped” suitcase aboard a commercial airliner with the use of a sophisticated timer device,  in order to exact vengeance on a Western state; and, after the fact, the careers of those intelligence agents, who successfully carried out their mission,progressed.”

ROBERT L. PUGH v. THE SOCIALIST PEOPLE’S LIBYAN ARAB JAMAHIRIYA

“Last June, L’Express, a French weekly, reported that investigators had concluded that both the Pan Am and U.T.A. bombings were planned at a meeting in Tripoli in September 1988 attended by Mr. Senoussi and Mr. Koussa.”

New York Times (October 31 1991)

“Raufer established three new facts, all of them pointing — for the first time — to Libya as the culprit of both Pan Am 103 and UTA 772. These facts are false.”

French Intelligence (DST) — Note to the President of France Francois Mitterrand 

“It is striking to note the similarity of the ‘scientific’ evidence discovered by the FBI’s Tom Thurman in both the Lockerbie and UTA cases. Of the tens of thousands of pieces of debris collected at each disaster site, one lone piece of printed circuit was found and, miracle of miracles, in each case the fragment bore markings that allowed for positive identification: MEBO in the Lockerbie case and TY in the case of UTA Flight 772. Despite the common findings of the DCPJ, the DST and the Prefecture of Police crime laboratory, Judge Bruguière chose to believe Thurman, the expert in fabricating evidence.”

Pierre Péan — African Manipulations

Rescuers stand near the wreckage of the French UTA DC-10 flight 772 in the Tenere desert, on September 22, 1989

September 19 2020 — It has been called the greatest murder investigation in French history. When a suitcase bomb destroyed French Airlines UTA Flight 772, killing all 170 passengers and crew on board, it triggered a decade long search for accountability. At the conclusion of the investigation, the French investigative magistrate judge — Jean Louis Bruguiere — determined that the Libyan State was directly responsible for the bombing of UTA Flight 772. Case closed?

Not everyone is convinced. Pierre Péan, one of the greatest French investigative journalists, came to the conclusion that Thomas Thurman — a Federal Bureau of Investigation explosives expert — fabricated false evidence against Libya in the investigations of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772 . Péan is certainly not alone to suspect foul play. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: Obituary — French Investigative Journalist Pierre Péan Dies at 81

RELATED POST: One Year Ago — Clinton’s Emails: Moussa Koussa and The “Lockerbie Bomber”

RELATED POST: Lockerbie 30th Anniversary — Should You Trust The New York Times?

Lockerbie — Three Decades of Lies: J’Accuse…!

QUICK NOTE — To make it easier for the readers to retrieve various chapters of this book, I have created a special page  “Lockerbie” where all the links to the chapters will be listed with a brief description. You can access that page directly as it appears at the far right of the top bar of this blog. END of NOTE

Lockerbie — Three Decades of Lies: J’Accuse…!

The official narrative

On the morning of September 19, 1989, Union de Transports Aériens (“UTA”) Flight 772 left Brazzaville, Congo en route to Paris, France with 156 passengers and 14 crew on board.

The flight’s path was to travel north over equatorial Africa, stopping in N’Djamena, Chad,
before continuing to Paris.

The flight’s departure was routine. There were no mechanical difficulties reported during the flight, the baggage was securely checked in, and the weather was unremarkable—a typical equatorial African day.

Sometime between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., after the stopover in N’Djamena, and while the plane was flying over the Ténéré desert in Niger, Chadian radio control lost contact with Flight 772.

After repeated attempts to contact Flight 772 went unanswered, French military personnel stationed in Chad were dispatched over the desert to investigate.

Upon arrival at the scene on September 20, the French military discovered the wreckage of UTA Flight 772 located over an area 80 kilometres long and 6-8 kilometres wide, north of Lake Chad, in Niger.

UTA Flight 772 went down over the Ténéré desert in Niger, as a result of an explosion later determined to have been caused by a bomb placed in the luggage hold.

All 170 people aboard the aircraft — 156 passengers and 14 crew members — were killed.

The French government initiated an extensive eight-year investigation headed up by France’s most experienced counter-terrorism investigative magistrate judge, Magistrate Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere.

Judge Bruguiere was aided by France’s intelligence and investigative services, as well as intelligence officials from around the world, including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the French investigative magistrate judge determined that the Libyan State was directly responsible for the bombing of UTA Flight 772.

The evidence demonstrated that Libya had carried out the attack using senior intelligence agents – the individual defendants in this case – to plan and coordinate the bombing through its embassy in Brazzaville, with a local Congolese national unknowingly executing the bombing by carrying onto the plane a “booby-trapped” suitcase set to detonate while the plane was in flight.

The French investigators based this conclusion on overwhelming evidence which included the following.

A piece of a dark-colored, rigid-shell Samsonite suitcase was recovered from the crash site, the design and type of which was the same as that used by other terrorist groups in previous attacks in Africa and the Middle East.

The suitcase fragment also matched other suitcase bombs in the possession of Libyan intelligence officials as well as suitcases presented to French investigators by Libyan officials on two occasions.

An explosive material called pentrite (Pentaerythritol tetranitrate) was identified in the front cargo hold of the plane and on the “booby-trapped” suitcase shell fragment.

A timing device used to detonate the bomb was recovered from the crash scene and was traced to a senior Libyan intelligence official who had ordered custom-modified timers from a German company which exactly matched the fragment recovered in the plane’s wreckage.

Three senior Libyan intelligence officials were identified as working out of the Libyan Embassy in Brazzaville during the time immediately preceding the attack, despite their lack of experience or knowledge regarding their alleged assignments in Brazzaville. They abruptly departed Brazzaville near the time of the bombing.

Witness testimony was obtained detailing the interaction between these Libyan intelligence officials and the unknowing Congolese national in whose suitcase the bomb had been placed, including the last minute delivery of an open ended plane ticket, along with the luggage to be used on the UTA flight.

With this and other conclusive evidence in hand, six Libyan intelligence officials were thereafter tried, in absentia, in a special Court of Assize in France. The Court, after reviewing the evidence and holding a three-day hearing, found each of the six Libyan intelligence officials guilty of deliberately destroying, or deliberately being complicit in the destruction of, the DC-10 UTA airliner by means of an explosive device, and intentionally taking the lives of the passengers and crew on board, and sentenced each of the Libyan officials to life imprisonment.

The U.S. Department of State has concluded that Libya is responsible for both the bombing of UTA 772 and the bombing of Pam Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, a terrorist attack executed by Libya just 9 months prior to the bombing of UTA Flight 772 with striking similarities in modus operandi.

As a result of these bombings as well as other terrorist activities, the United Nations Security Council in 1992 issued international sanctions against Libya.  (UNSC Resolution 731 and UNSC Resolution 748)

Not convinced?

You may find this story hard to believe. So, I encourage you to think about this post-Gaddafi mystery.

Moussa Koussa previously headed the Mukhabarat el-Jamahiriya (Libyan National Intelligence Agency) from 1994 to 2009, and was considered one of the country’s most powerful figures and a member of Gaddafi’s inner circle.

Moussa Koussa with Hillary Clinton in 2010

When he arrived in the United Kingdom in March 2011, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office released an official statement saying that Koussa no longer wished to represent the Libyan government and intended to resign.

No charges were pressed against him by the British government, and in the following months financial sanctions on him were lifted by the Obama administration.

Scottish prosecutors interviewed Koussa about the Lockerbie bombing, and found no judicial reason or evidence to hold him in captivity.

French investigators did not even questioned Koussa, despite the demand from the families.

RECENT DEVELOPMENT

On 5 September 2012, the country of Mauritania extradited Abdullah Senussi to Libyan authorities.

Senussi is to be tried in Libya for crimes he allegedly committed during the time he was the close assistant to Gaddafi.

Senussi appeared in a Libyan court for a pre-trial hearing on 19 September 2013.

On 11 October 2013, the International Criminal Court ruled that he can be tried in Libya and lifted their warrant.

In July 2015, Senussi was sentenced to death by a Libyan court.

The case was seen by both the United Nations and Libyan government as an unfair trial.

After the defense’s appeal, Senussi was offered amnesty in return for National Reconciliation.

L’Express and Xavier Raufer

In June 1991 , L’Express, a French weekly, reported that investigators had concluded that both the Pan Am and U.T.A. bombings were planned at a meeting in Tripoli in September 1988 attended by Mr. Senussi and Mr. Koussa.

The author was Xavier Raufer who had been the first journalist to report the responsibility of Libya for the Lockerbie tragedy a few months before.

Clearly, the story reported by Raufer is a farrago of lies.What was the point?

I believe that a note written by the DST — a French Intelligence Service at the time — to the French president best explains the goal and consequences of this manipulation.

According to the note, Xavier Raufer published his story in the French news-magazine L’Express after a short visit to the United States.

The DST believes that it was — of course — very convenient for the US to blame Libya — despite the lack of evidence — and ignore the clues pointing to Syria and perhaps Iran, the countries that were until then the main suspects.

The DST observes that Raufer established three new facts, all of them pointing — for the first time — to Libya as the culprit of both Pan Am 103 and UTA 772.

The note is categorical: “These facts are false.”

Although the note concludes that these ‘new facts’ are simply fictional, the DST also issues a dire warning to the French President.

If that story gains credibility in the media and becomes the ‘new truth’, we will be forced to revisit our position regarding Libya and Gaddafi.

A few weeks before the Lockerbie indictment, high-level delegations from the US and the UK visited France to convince the Mitterrand government  to vote in favor of UN sanctions against Libya.

On November 14 1991, the Lord Advocate and the acting United States Attorney General jointly announced that they had obtained warrants for the arrest of Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah.

On November 27 1991, the British and United States Governments issued a joint statement calling on the Libyan government to surrender the two men for trial.

Although Mitterrand was opposed to such sanctions, France voted in favor of Resolution 731 on January 21 1992 and Resolution 748 on March 31 1992.

On November 11 1993, the Security Council passed resolution 883 that imposed further international sanctions on Libya.

All of this was achieved without a trial, let alone a verdict. That was certainly an amazing victory for the CIA.

FBI Thomas Thurman. Again…

Thurman had been working on photos of all the UTA wreckage found in a 50 sq km area of the Tenere Desert; this evidence was placed under special judicial seal no. 4.

Unbeknownst to Claude Calisti, an expert from the Prefecture of Police crime lab, in summer 1991 Thurman identified a small piece of printed circuit board, green in colour and measuring 4 sq cm, bearing the marking TY.

Without notifying the French authorities, the FBI detectives began following the TY trail. TY is the trademark of the Taiwanese firm Taiyoun, which manufactured 120,000 such timers in 1988, of which 20,000 were for the German firm Grasslin, based in Freiburg.

The FBI then pored over Grasslin’s client list of some 350 names before singling one of them: Hans Peter Wust, a German national who had traveled to Libya in November 1988 and met with Issa al-Shibani. Al-Shibani had asked if Wust could provide him with timers that could run on direct current using a nine or 12 volt power supply and which were intended for the night-time illumination of airfields in the desert.

Upon returning to Germany, Wust contacted the Steinmetz company about modifying the batteries, which were not sufficiently powerful, and this was arranged. Wust told the FBI that he delivered the timers to Tripoli on 20 July 1989. The FBI quickly concluded that Libya had indeed purchased the TY timer, which had served as the retarding agent in the Samsonite luggage on board the DC-10. Thurman thus discovered the scientific evidence implicating Libya in both the Lockerbie and Tenere incidents.

Before informing Bruguiere, the Americans began seeking British and French participation in an anti-Gadafy initiative, which led to the Libyan embargo. Immediately after receiving Thurman’s report on 15 October 1991, Calisti notified Bruguiere, who was pleased to have formal evidence supporting Yanga’s testimony and scientifically proving the Libyan connection. “Formal proof of Libyan culpability” was supplied by the FBI, which worked on the top-secret photographs of the tiny piece of circuit board used to detonate the suitcase bomb, as Jean-Marie Pontault passionately proclaimed on both Le Point’s front page and in his book. Neither Bruguiere nor Pontault is worried by the belated yet timely arrival of this evidence, more than two years after the bombing.

Bruguiere’s bill of indictment includes the FBI’s findings in their entirety but makes no mention of the French specialists’ objections to these conclusions. Thurman’s assertions, however, have spurred two counter-inquiries, one by the French 6th Central Criminal Investigation Directorate (CCID) and the French Territorial Surveillance Directorate (TSD), and the other by the Prefecture of Police crime lab.

Findings of the French Crime Lab

The latter’s conclusions are definitive: “It cannot be established that our timer fragment came from either the first batch purchased by the Freiburg factory or the second batch modified by the Libyan.”

A French interior ministry internal memorandum, dated 10 March 1993, is equally categorical: “The investigations pertaining to the fragment of printed circuit board found in the wreckage of the DC-10 and which may have come from the timer that caused the explosion have been completed. These investigations, conducted in 1992 in both Taiwan and Germany, have not enabled us to determine that the fragment came from the shipment of 101 timers ordered by the Libyan Issa al-Shibani.”

Nor does Bruguiere mention the Prefecture of Police crime lab’s counter-inquiry, conducted in spring 1993 under Calisti’s direction after the FBI investigation had been completed.

Following the release of Thurman’s report, the circuit board fragment – the “evidence” – had been removed from judicial seal no. 4, under which all the debris had been gathered, placed under special seal no. 4/4 and then examined thoroughly.

Calisti, considered one of the world’s leading explosives experts, offered this conclusion: the fragment provided by the FBI may have come from a timer similar to the one the FBI presented to Bruguiere (ie the same timer purchased by Libya), but in no way could the fragment have come from the timer used to detonate the suitcase bomb. Calisti and his team found no trace of explosives on the timer fragment.

How could the bomb’s retarding agent show no molecular trace of its exposure to pentrite during an explosion of such magnitude? Using complicated methods, the FBI tried to allay the doubts of its French counterparts by demonstrating that other areas close to the bomb showed no trace of explosives; according to the FBI, the deformations on the circuit board fragment were unquestionably due to the blast effect!

According to Calisti, the timer fragment did not constitute scientific evidence of Libyan involvement; his familiarity with Abu Ibrahim’s bomb-making techniques also helped him arrive at this conclusion. Indeed, the TY timer could not have fit in the suitcase bomb because the timer was much too large.

The Prefecture of Police crime lab thus stuck to its guns. Despite his certainty, Calisti had the debris under judicial seal no. 4 examined under a microscope in the hopes of finding another circuit board fragment on which the blast effect could be observed; this important test also proved unsuccessful. It is striking to note the similarity of the “scientific” evidence discovered by the FBI in both the Lockerbie and UTA cases.

Of the tens of thousands of pieces of debris collected at each disaster site, one lone piece of printed circuit was found and, miracle of miracles, in each case the fragment bore markings that allowed for positive identification: MEBO in the Lockerbie case and TY in the case of the UTA DC-10. …

Despite the common findings of the CCID, the TSD and the Prefecture of Police crime lab, Bruguiere chose to believe Thurman, the expert in fabricating evidence …

French Hostages in Lebanon

While taking his instructions from President Diouf and Jean Collin, Senegalese religious leader Sheikh Zein was going in between the French and the Iranian leaders.

In January 1988, Zein visited President Khamenei in Tehran. French Minister Michel Aurillac visited Dakar (and Zein) in February.

In March, French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua came to Dakar where he stayed at the Presidential Palace and discussed the release of the hostages with Zein. The next month, Zein was in Paris.

In May 1988, the three French hostages (Kauffmann, Carton, Fontaine) were released.

On September 18 1989, a Lebanese newspaper published a letter from the kidnappers reminding Paris that the promises made during the negotiations had not been kept by the French.

The next day, a UTA 772 exploded…

African Manipulations — Pierre Péan

Pierre Péan, one of the greatest French investigative journalists, died on July 25 2019.

In Manipulations Africaines (African Manipulations), published in February 2001, Péan investigated the sabotage of UTA Flight 772.

He alleged that evidence pointed to Iran and Syria (acting through the Hezbollah movement), but that due to political context (notably the Gulf War), France and the United States tried to put the blame on Libya.

He also accused Thomas Thurman, a Federal Bureau of Investigation explosives expert, of fabricating false evidence against Libya in both the Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772 sabotages.

REFERENCES

UTA Flight 772 — Wikipedia

Tainted evidence of Libyan terrorism (Translated by Luke Sandford)

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On This Day — Remembering UTA Flight 772 (September 19 1989)

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