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Context of '6:25 pm October 4, 1992: Plane Crash in Holland Shows Chemicals for Sarin Were Being Transported'

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TWA logo.TWA logo. [Source: Surfside Hawaii (.com)]TWA Flight 841, en route to New York City from Tel Aviv, explodes in mid-air. The Boeing 747 stopped in Athens for a routine layover, took off, and shortly thereafter reported an engine on fire. Soon after the report, the plane explodes and crashes into the Ionian Sea. Seventy-nine passengers and nine crew members die. A TWA spokesman in New York says that sabotage is “highly unlikely,” but a youth organization in Beirut with connections to Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal claims that one of its members surreptitiously placed a bomb on board. In general, aviation officials scoff at the idea that a terrorist would have bombed a plane. However, in May 1995, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will find that the plane was destroyed by a bomb. The NTSB’s final report will say that the “probable cause of this accident was the detonation of an explosive device within the aft cargo compartment of the aircraft which rendered the aircraft uncontrollable.” [Board, 5/26/1975 pdf file; Werth, 2006, pp. 324-325]

Entity Tags: Trans World Airlines, RobertMoomo, Abu Nidal

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

El Al Flight LY1862, en route from New York to Tel Aviv, crashes into a block of apartment buildings shortly after take-off from Schiphol Airport, located south-east of Amsterdam. At least 43 people on the ground are killed (The exact number of deaths is unknown, since many of the incinerated victims were undocumented immigrants). Information about the plane’s cargo and the crash is suppressed: El Al withholds information about the plane’s several tons of “military cargo;” 12 hours of videotape made during the rescue and clean-up operation (42 cassettes in all), along with police audiotapes, are erased and shredded; and El Al documents and the plane’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR) mysteriously disappear. It is later learned that the plane, a Boeing 747, was carrying several tons of chemicals, including hydrofluoric acid, isopro-panol and dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP)—three of the four chemicals used in the production of sarin nerve gas. The shipment of chemicals—approved by the US commerce department—reportedly came from Solkatronic Chemicals Inc. of Morrisville, Pennsylvania and its final destination was the Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in Ness Ziona near Tel Aviv, Israel, which is reported to be the “Israeli military and intelligence community’s front organization for the development, testing and production of chemical and biological weapons.” A former IIBR biologist later tells the London Sunday Times in October of 1998, “There is hardly a single known or unknown form of chemical or biological weapon… which is not manufactured at the institute.” In fact, it was IIBR that provided the poison and the antidote used in the attempted assassination of a Hamas leader in Jordan in 1998. The IIBR does not appear on any maps and is off-limits even to members of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. Israel denies that the chemicals were to be used in the production of chemical weapons and instead claims that they were needed to test gas masks. But as an article in Earth Island Journal notes: “[T]his explanation is puzzling since it only takes a few grams to conduct such tests. Once combined, the chemicals aboard Flight 1862 could have produced 270 kilos of sarin—sufficient to kill the entire population of a major world city.” During hearings on the crash in 1999, it is learned that since 1973, El Al planes are never inspected by customs or the Dutch Flight Safety Board and that El Al security at Schiphol is a branch of the Israeli Mossad. Furthermore, it is discovered that every Sunday evening a mysterious El Al cargo flight arrives at Schiphol en route from New York to Tel Aviv. The flights are never displayed on the airport arrival monitors and the flights’ documents are processed in a special, unmarked room. [BBC, 10/2/1998; Earth Island Journal, 1999; Covert Action Quarterly, 10/20/2004] Over a thousand residents living near the crash site later become sick with respiratory, neurological and mobility ailments and a rise in cancer and birth defects is later detected among the population. [ZNet, 10/12/2002]

Entity Tags: El Al, Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), Solkatronic Chemicals Inc

Timeline Tags: US Military

In a letter to delegates at the fifth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, some 310 scientists from both poor and rich countries call for a moratorium on the use of genetically modified organisms. “We call for the immediate suspension of the release of genetically modified crops and products, both commercially and in open field trials, for at least five years, for patents on living processes, organisms, seeds, cell lines and genes to be revoked and banned, and for a comprehensive public enquiry into the future of agriculture and food security for all,” the letter says. The scientists say that the technologies being developed by biotech companies are aimed at protecting the intellectual property rights of seed companies and not to increase global food security or improve the welfare of poor farmers in non-industrialized countries. The letter warns that terminator technologies and trait-control technologies (which make it possible to turn plant traits on or off with the application of proprietary chemicals) would increase farmers’ dependency on chemicals and corporations. The letter calls for patents on these technologies to be banned on grounds that they would encourage biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources, violate basic human rights and dignity, compromise healthcare, impede medical and scientific research, and be harmful to animals. [East African, 5/29/2000]

Timeline Tags: Seeds

NBC Nightly News reports: “Investigators tell NBC News that the water used to make [the anthrax spores] came from a northeastern US, not a foreign, source. Traces of chemicals found inside the spores revealed the materials used to grow them. And scientists have also mapped the entire DNA chain of the anthrax hoping to narrow down the laboratories where it came from. But one possible clue evaporated. The FBI concluded the spores were not coated with any chemical to make them hang longer in the air.” [MSNBC, 10/5/2006] Later in the year, Rutgers University microbiologist Richard Ebright says, “This information [about the water], if correct, would appear to narrow the field” of laboratories that the anthrax used in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001) could have come from. Ebright knows of only three labs in the Northeast US that had seed cultures of the Ames strain prior to the attacks:
bullet USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons lab in Frederick, Maryland.
bullet The University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania. A scientist there had been conducting bioweapons research of interest to the US military.
bullet Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. Battelle does classified biological research for the US military. [Chemical and Engineering News, 12/4/2006]

Entity Tags: United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Battelle Memorial Institute, Richard Ebright

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

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