Former E. German secret police tied to Libyans, 1988 Lockerbie bombing

November 27, 1991|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Special to The Sun

BERLIN -- The then-East German Stasi secret police helped Libya organize the 1988 bombing of a jumbo jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, a well-placed Stasi officer says.

But it is not believed that the nation's leaders knew anything of this activity.

The officer and experts in the field also believe that the Stasi -- East Germany's secret police and intelligence service, which has since been disbanded -- made the attack and other acts of terrorism possible through years of organizational help, training and logistics for Libyan agents.

The 1988 attack, which Western governments believe was directly planned by Libya, resulted in 270 deaths when a Pan Am jumbo jet was blown up over Scotland.

"We had knowledge of Libyan activities that were pointing toward an airplane bombing. As a friendly agency, they received certain help [from us]," the officer said.

The officer, a lieutenant, worked in the Stasi's Division 22, which was responsible for combating terrorism but also helped Western and Arab terrorist organizations.

The Stasi's involvement in the Lockerbie bombing was part of its routine help for Libyan agents, he said. But in Washington, a U.S. official disagreed, saying there was no evidence the East Germans were involved in planning the bombing.

The lieutenant said that in 1987, when Libyan agents were searching for an airplane bomb detonation device, they used East Berlin as a base for purchasing trips to Western Europe and drew on Stasi experience. The Libyans are suspected of having bought the detonating device in Switzerland, a country that has seenheavy Stasi penetration.

Although Libyan agents probably did not receive direct Stasi aid in buying the devices, a Stasi-run East Berlin import-export company with subsidiaries in Switzerland gave advice, the lieutenant said. In 1986, the company, Kommerzielle Koordination, had procured 4,767 assault rifles for Libya.

Similar Stasi-Libyan cooperation is suspected of having taken place in 1986, when Libyan agents working out of East Berlin are believed to have organized the bombing of the West Berlin disco La Belle, in which two were killed and 200 wounded.

This prompted the U.S. ambassador to East Berlin to protest in 1987 to the Communist regime that it had proof of cooperation.

The Stasi's Division 22, which was in charge of these projects, had more than 500 officers and an annual budget of about $7 million. Although many anti-Western states received Stasi help and expertise, Libya was among the top recipients, according to Karl Wilhelm Fricke, an author of several books on the Stasi.

Stasi cooperation with Libya began after the 1969 coup that brought Col. Muammar el Kadafi to power, according to the officer. But joint activities really only started in 1979, when East Germany and Libya signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. The Stasi trained Libyan terrorists, and it organized and advised the Mukhabarat, Libya's secret police and intelligence agency.

"Little of their activity would have been possible without the transfer of the Stasi's organizational skills," Mr. Fricke said.

The lieutenant said intensive cooperation meant that even when the Stasi's direct advisory role in Libya was over in the mid-1980s, it was well aware of the Mukhabarat's activities.

The idea behind the cooperation, he said, was not only to help renegade countries such as Libya destabilize the West but also to keep close tabs on them so they wouldn't turn against East German and Soviet interests.

"Any time we wanted to know anything, we could. Our connections were good," the lieutenant said.

Another link in the Libyan-East German connection is said to be Said Rashid, one of Colonel Kadafi's closest advisers. Mr. Rashid is believed to have planned the La Belle disco attack as well as the Lockerbie bombing. Other Stasi officers have said he was in East Berlin at least five times between 1984 and 1988.

Although it is not known if he was in East Berlin to plan the Lockerbie attack with the Stasi, his close connections to the Stasi support the lieutenant's assertions that the Stasi had at least full knowledge of the planned attack.

Despite this involvement, East Germany's top political leaders had nothing to do with such operations, the lieutenant said. "This was a service from one friendly agency to another," he said, and did not involve a major policy decision.

Mr. Fricke also said he is sure that top East German leaders knew nothing of the attack. East Germany was careful to cultivate a good international image and would not have wanted to see this tarnished for such a questionable activity as bombing a civilian airliner, he said.

"They were very careful about their international standing," Mr. Fricke said.

The Office for Protecting the Constitution, Germany's anti-terrorism and anti-espionage agency, reported that it lacks precise knowledge about East Germany's involvement in the bombing because it has yet to thoroughly analyze the millions of Stasi files impounded after East Germany collapsed last year.

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