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Context of 'September 18, 1987: Lebanese Hijacker Is First Known Islamist Terrorist to Be Rendered by US'

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Time magazine cover from June 24, 1985 featuring report on the hijacking of Flight 847.Time magazine cover from June 24, 1985 featuring report on the hijacking of Flight 847. [Source: Time]Islamic militants with the Shi’ite Amal group, an affiliate of Hezbollah, hijack TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome. 135 of the 153 passengers are Americans.
Demanding Release of Militant Prisoners - The hijackers demand the immediate release of 17 members of a Shi’ite militant group, Al Dawa, who were arrested in Kuwait for the December 1983 bombing of the American embassy in Kuwait City. (This group, the “Kuwait 17,” features prominently in other hijackers’ demands as well. They will accidentally be released during Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.) The hijackers also demand the release of some 700 fellow Shi’ite Muslim prisoners held in Israeli prisons and in prisons in southern Lebanon run by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.
Navy Diver Murdered - The TWA pilot is forced to fly to Beirut, Lebanon, where, after their demands are not met, the hijackers shoot and trample Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem to death and dump his body on the tarmac. The plane is flown to Algiers and then back to Beirut again. Most of the passengers are released, but 39 are held captive in Lebanon. President Reagan holds a press conference largely focusing on the hostage crisis, and says that the US will never give in to terrorist demands.
Hostages Freed - After intervention by Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad, the remaining 39 hostages are freed on June 30 in Damascus; the hijackers are allowed to escape. Some of the hostages later compliment their captors for treating them well during their captivity. Nothing is ever confirmed, but speculation is widespread that some sort of quiet deal between Israel and the hijackers has been struck, as Israel begins releasing Shi’ite prisoners immediately after the hostages’ release. The US will deny that any such deal was ever made. In 1985, four of the hijackers will be indicted for their participation in the TWA takeover, but only one will ever be convicted. [PBS, 2000; PBS Frontline, 10/4/2001; BBC, 2008]

Entity Tags: Robert Dean Stethem, Hafiz al-Assad, Amal, ’Kuwait 17’, Ronald Reagan, Hezbollah

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

The La Belle discotheque after the bombing.The La Belle discotheque after the bombing. [Source: Associated Press]The La Belle disco in West Berlin suffers a terrorist bombing when a two-kilogram bomb packed with plastic explosive and shrapnel detonates near the dance floor. A Turkish woman and two US soldiers are killed. Two hundred and thirty others are injured, including more than 50 US soldiers. The attack is widely blamed on the Libyan government; 10 days later, the US orders air strikes on Libyan targets. The strikes are widely perceived as an attempt to kill Libyan dictator Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, who is not injured in the strikes, but whose adopted baby daughter is killed along with 15 civilians. Three employees at the Libyan embassy in Berlin are later found guilty of attempted murder, and the wife of one of them is found guilty of murder after she is proven to have planted the bomb. [BBC, 11/13/2001] In 1998, ZDF, the German television network, will air a documentary that claims that Libya was not behind the bombing. The program will claim that the main suspects worked for US and Israeli intelligence. [World Socialist Web Site, 8/27/1998] However, files maintained by East Germany’s intelligence agency, STASI, seem to prove that former embassy employee Musbah Eter and his three colleagues are responsible for the attack. The prosecution will not prove that al-Qadhafi or the Libyan government is responsible for the bombing. [BBC, 11/13/2001] In 2004, Libya will agree to pay $35 million in reparations to the families of some of the victims, an implicit admission of its involvement in the attack. [Associated Press, 8/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Musbah Eter, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, Ministry for State Security (STASI), Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks

The La Belle disco in Berlin after it was bombed.The La Belle disco in Berlin after it was bombed. [Source: AFP]European public opinion begins to turn after the US launches a deadly strike against Libya, in retaliation for the bombing of a Berlin disco in which two American servicemen died (see April 5, 1986 and After). The CIA therefore works to spread the idea that the Libyans intend to plant another bomb in Berlin, a propaganda operation designed to reshape European public opinion. According to a CIA officer involved in the operation, the first step is “to convince German intelligence and police there was a terrorist cell.” To achieve this, a Lebanese CIA asset named Jamal Hamdan, who helps the US in various ways around this time, makes a series of phone calls from an apartment in Cyprus to suspected terrorists in Germany. Hamdan also tells a relative living in West Berlin that his brother Ali and a friend will enter the city carrying a package, which, it is implied, is a bomb. Ali Hamdan and the friend then enter West Berlin illegally from the east and are arrested by German police, who wrongly believe that they actually have a bomb and the plot is real. Word of the plot is leaked to the US press, enabling the Reagan administration to quell criticism of the attack on Libya. The CIA then steps in and has the two men held in Germany released. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 89-90]

Entity Tags: Libya, Central Intelligence Agency, Ali Hamdan, Reagan administration, Jamal Hamdan

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline

Fawaz Younis, a militant for the Lebanese Amal organization who has just been captured by the US (see June 14-30, 1985 and September 18, 1987), is kept in poor conditions, according to a later account he gives. Yousef will make the following allegations of mistreatment:
bullet Both his wrists are broken when he is captured and he is not given medical treatment or painkillers for five days. However, according to the US, the broken wrists are not discovered until Younis is transported to the US, a few days after his capture.
bullet While being held at sea, he is placed in a “highly heated cabin” and, “An exhaust pipe inside the cabin blew sand and hot air during that period, and my only resort for fresh air was to constantly ask my abductors to go to the toilet, where I could breathe fresh air.”
bullet Younis will also say he suffered from seasickness.
At his trial, he will say that a confession was coerced from him thanks to these factors, but will be convicted. However, FBI spokesman Frank Scafidi will dismiss the claims, saying: “This man was convicted. He is raising these allegations while sitting in prison, and I think that speaks for itself. The FBI as [a] matter of policy treats prisoners or arrestees in conformance with its policies and regulations.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/24/1999]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Frank Scafidi, Fawaz Younis

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A group of US agencies, comprising the CIA, FBI, DEA, and Defense Department, cooperates on the capture and rendition of Fawaz Younis, an Islamic militant linked to Lebanon’s Amal militia who was previously involved in two airplane hijackings.
Arrested, Transferred to US - Younis is captured after being lured to a boat in international waters off Cyprus. He is then arrested and transferred to an aircraft carrier, from where he is flown directly to the US. The operation, which costs US$20 million, is so complicated because of rules set by the Justice Department. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 78-94] Author Stephen Grey will call the rules “very tight.” CIA manager Duane Clarridge will say, “This meant that Yunis had to be apprehended by the FBI in international waters or airspace, remain in constant custody of the feds, and remain clear of the turf of any sovereign nation—for the entire duration of his 4,000-mile journey to the United States.” [Grey, 2007, pp. 133-134]
Details of Hijackings - In the first hijacking, Younis seized a plane in Beirut and attempted to fly it to Tunis, where the Arab League was meeting. The aim was to pressure the League into urging the Palestine Liberation Organization to leave Lebanon, as relations between it and local people had deteriorated. In the second hijacking, which took place five days later, the plane was seized by a team from Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, who beat the passengers and shot one of them, US Navy diver Robert Stethem. Posing as a crewman during a stopover in Beirut, Younis entered the plane and took control of the hijacking. The passengers were removed from the plane in groups, and dispersed through Beirut. They were later released in return for safe passage for the hijackers (see June 14-30, 1985).
Lured by Informant - The man who lured Younis to the boat is Jamal Hamdan, who had previously worked with the CIA on a false flag operation in Germany (see After Mid-April 1986). Authors Joe and Susan Trento will describe Hamdan as “a street hustler, murderer and drug dealer,” adding, “Hamdan’s Beirut police file is impressive.” Thanks to his connection to Amal, Hamdan was able to operate for a time despite his killings, but in 1985 he murdered a senior Druze official and then his sister-in-law, leading to his imprisonment. Amal leader and US intelligence asset Nabih Berri informed the US that Hamdan could help them with some drug cases, and he began providing the DEA and CIA with information about US-based drug dealers, which got him released from prison.
Deal for Asylum - In return for helping the operation to capture Younis, dubbed operation Goldenrod, Hamdan insisted on “huge cash payments” and asylum for himself and his family in the US. The Trentos will comment, “In other words, the FBI arranged to bring into our country a murderer and terrorist in return for the capture of an airplane hijacker who had never killed any Americans.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 78-94]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Jamal Hamdan, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Duane Clarridge, Amal, Central Intelligence Agency, Drug Enforcement Administration, Fawaz Younis, Stephen Grey

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

The Justice Department issues a memo formally authorizing the use of rendition as a technique by the CIA and FBI to transport terrorist suspects from foreign countries. The terrorists are to be brought to the US, where they will face trial. This is the first known official use of the term rendition, although it is already in informal use. According to CIA Director William Webster, the technique is to be used in countries like Lebanon, due to the poor state of the judicial system there, and the other country’s government does not have to be informed or approve the operation. Webster will comment, “It seems to me that you have a different set of circumstances in a country like Lebanon which has no capacity to provide law enforcement or assistance than going to another neighbor such as Sweden or someplace and lifting somebody out of there.” Webster will point out that US courts will not consider seizing a terrorist in another country a bar to trying him in the US, as courts “do not much care how the defendant happened to come into America.” [Washington Post, 11/4/1989; Grey, 2007, pp. 133-134] At least one such rendition operation was carried out before the memo was issued (see September 18, 1987).

Entity Tags: William H. Webster, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

According to CIA Director William Webster, the US considers mounting a rendition operation against the bombers of Pan Am Flight 103. The plane was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, causing 270 fatalities in December 1988. Nearly a year later, Webster tells the Washington Post that the administration hopes to locate, seize, and bring to the US for trial the terrorists responsible for the bombing. However, it is not known who committed the bombing at this point. Discussion of the US response to the bombing leads the Justice Department to issue a memo formally authorizing the technique of rendition (see June 1988). [Washington Post, 11/4/1989] As of fall 2008, the full list of operatives involved in the bombing is not known and there are no public records of any of the known alleged bombers being rendered to the US.

Entity Tags: William H. Webster, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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