|Date||17 April 1986|
|Description||Failed attempt to smuggle a time bomb onto a plane|
The Hindawi affair was (according to the Official Narrative) a failed attempt by Jordanian Nezar Nawwaf al-Mansur al-Hindawi to smuggle a time bomb onto a Boeing 747 jumbo jet El Al Flight 016 after it had arrived in London from New York and was bound for Tel Aviv.
On the morning of 17 April 1986, at Heathrow Airport in London, Israeli security guards working for El Al airlines found 1.5kg (3.3lb) of Semtex explosive in the bag of Ann Marie Murphy, a five-month pregnant Irishwoman attempting to board a flight to Tel Aviv with 375 other passengers. In addition, a functioning calculator in the bag was found to be a timed triggering device.
Ann Murphy claimed to be unaware of the contents, that she had been given the bag by her fiancé, Nezar al-Hindawi, and maintained that Hindawi had sent her on the flight for the purpose of meeting his parents before marriage. A manhunt ensued, resulting in Hindawi's arrest the following day after he surrendered to police.
On Thursday, 17 April 1986, at Heathrow International Airport in London, El Al security agents thwarted an attempt to blow up an El Al plane, a Boeing 747-20, flight no. 016 on the New York – London – Tel Aviv route, was preparing to depart with 395 passengers and crew. The plan was to plant explosives in the belly of the plane; the explosives were to be transported by a duped and innocent passenger entirely unaware of their existence.
El Al security agents at the London stop uncovered the explosives and prevented the terror attack. After the discovery of the explosives, local authorities took over and arrested the passenger; later also arresting the man who sent her, a Jordanian Arab named Nezar Hindawi. The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Ann Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.
No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.
Examination of the bomb by the local police revealed a detonator in the Commodore calculator coated with plastic Semtex explosives, connected to an electronic timing device which was set to activate the major explosives cache hidden inside the bag. An examination of the timer mechanism, once it was disconnected from the explosives, revealed that the jet was intended to explode about two and a quarter hours after its takeoff for Israel, at a height of 39,000 feet, when it would have been airborne between Italy and Greece.
Ann Marie Murphy was not tried. Nezar Hindawi was sentenced on 25 October 1986 to 45 years imprisonment. During the trial at the Old Bailey, his defence attorney attempted to claim that the affair was a Mossad provocation, and that the Mossad had planted the bomb in order to “uncover” it and thus gain political capital against Syria. The security officer who testified in the trial under the name Mr. A, hidden from the audience and reporters by a curtain, was forced to deny that he was a Mossad agent as well as that he himself had hidden the bomb in Ann Marie Murphy’s belongings during the security check…
As a result of the affair, Britain gave Syria 14 days' notice on 25 October 1986 of a break in diplomatic relations, which responded by expelling all British diplomats from Syria within 7 days. The exposure of the explosives in London foiled the terror attack, and saved the lives of 395 passengers and crew. The Israeli PM at the time, Shimon Peres, later stated that if the attack had been successfully carried out, the state of Israel would have been forced to go to war with Syria as a result of the Syrian role in the attack.
December 1985 attacks
This incident occurred in London less than six months after El Al’s security apparatus had been put to the test: on 27 December 1985, two groups of terrorists simultaneously attacked groups of El Al passengers in the Rome and Vienna airports. The attacks were thwarted, leading to the deaths of three terrorists in Rome, and the arrest of the fourth, who was wounded. In Vienna, one terrorist was killed and two were caught. During the Vienna incident, El Al security officers and guards led a hot pursuit of the terrorists’ car, together with the local police. In the two incidents together, sixteen civilians were killed, including an El Al passenger, and 120 were wounded, including 7 El Al employees, 4 deputy security officers, and one security guard.
It turned out that the “Abu Nidal Organisation” was behind the planning and execution of the two attacks; and furthermore, the terrorists departed from Damascus, the “ANO” faction headquarters, for both Rome and Vienna. There was a rare and coincidental connection between these two incidents and the London incident: the security officer of the London flight was involved in the Vienna incident as well, where he had been serving as a backup security officer at the local El Al station.
These two incidents reflect some degree of the great complexity in the field of security, and the high level of expertise required to provide a response to a variety of threats: the preparedness and the quick reactions needed for an immediate response to an attack initiated by the opponent; as well as the “mind war” between the security apparatus and the terrorist organisations eager to find gaps in security which can be used to infiltrate explosive devices to explode planes in midair, even with the unwitting aid of duped passengers.
Lockerbie's Helsinki Warning
The Helsinki Warning in advance of the 21 December 1988 Lockerbie disaster almost exactly matched Ann Marie Murphy's circumstances, except that the woman who would be carrying the bomb was Finnish (extract from the May 1989 report of the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, pages iii and iv):
On 5 December 1988, an anonymous telephone caller to the US Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, said that sometime within the next two weeks a Finnish woman would carry a bomb aboard a Pan Am aircraft flying from Frankfurt (West Germany) to the United States. The FAA Security Bulletin on that threat was issued on December 7 and was redistributed by the US State Department to its embassies worldwide December 9.
At the US Embassy in Moscow, the senior staff, with concurrence of the Ambassador, decided that the warning should be made public. Thus the Helsinki threatinformation was publicly posted at the Embassy on December 14 and was generally made available throughout the 2000-member community of Americans, including news media and private contractor personnel, in Moscow. For these Americans, Pan Am through Frankfurt was the most accessible and most commonly used route to the United States.
The Commission found no passenger who changed his or her travel plans because of the Helsinki threat except one civilian who was scheduled to fly Pan Am to the United States through Frankfurt on December 16 and switched to a direct flight on December 18. While there were no passengers from Moscow on Flight 103, the connecting Pan Am flight from Moscow was not scheduled to fly on that date [December 21].
On 23 December 1988, The New York Times reported:
Finnish authorities expressed doubts about any connection between the threat received in Helsinki and the crash. But the episode raised questions about the adequacy of existing procedures for informing the public about the danger of terrorist attacks.
The threat, in an anonymous telephone call to the United States Embassy in Helsinki, warned that operatives of the terrorist Abu Nidal Organisation, using an unwitting accomplice, would smuggle a bomb aboard a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to the United States in December.
The Finnish authorities, without naming the suspect, said today that since January the Finnish police had been monitoring the activities of the person who made the telephone threat. The same caller, speaking in a strong Arab accent, has repeatedly made similar threats to the American and Israeli embassies in Helsinki, the Foreign Ministry said. The Finnish statement said that the suspect had not left Finland since his most recent call and that he remained under investigation.
The group named in the Helsinki threat, the Abu Nidal Organisation, is loosely allied with the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and has been tied to attacks on airports in Rome and Vienna during the December holiday season in 1985.
|Interview with playwright Lucile Lichtblau|
Premiered off Broadway in October 2013, "The English Bride" was written by Lucile Lichtblau and was based on the Hindawi affair.
Set in 1990s London, the play is a fictionalised recapitulation of the actual event, the attempted bombing of an El Al plane in 1986. In that incident, a pregnant and entirely unwitting Irishwoman was found with a suitcase bomb planted by her Middle Eastern fiancé, while she was supposedly en route to their wedding.
In the play, the unwitting young victim, Eileen Finney is English but, like her real-life counterpart, she is also pregnant and seemingly unaware of her fiancé Ali Said’s deadly agenda. The story is told primarily through an interrogation by Dov, a Mossad investigator, who alternately questions Eileen and Ali. It slowly emerges that Ali and Eileen had fallen into a romantic relationship that became entangled in a terrorist plot involving smuggling a time bomb onto an airliner.
The guessing game, for both the investigator and the audience, is whether either party is telling the truth, and whether either was a willing participant in the plot or was merely a dupe. Eileen, a plain, working-class woman in her 40s, seems a likely target for a smooth-talking con man, but she is more complex than she appears, and perhaps more manipulative. And Ali is so convincing in his denials that he might have fooled even himself.
"The English Bride" was performed by the And Toto too Theatre Company in April/May 2016 (Season 11) at the Vintage Theatre, Aurora, Colorado. In this interview from March 2013, playwright Lucile Lichtbrau gives a brief synopsis of the play and what inspired her to write it.
Gordon Thomas provides another version of the Hindawi affair in his book "Gideon’s Spies" (7th edition 2015), which is a history of Mossad, the Israeli secret service. Gordon was a cousin of Dylan Thomas who found a publisher for Gordon’s first book written when he was just 16. Gordon died in 2017 having written over 50 books with sales of 45 million. A few years earlier he filmed ‘My Story’.
Thomas had written about the intelligence services of Britain and America when he was invited to write about Mossad by high ranking officers in Israel who provided him with considerable information. This became his most successful book and went through seven editions. The chapter called the ‘The Chambermaid’s Bomb’ says a Mossad agent, code named ‘Tov Levy’ using an Arab double agent named ‘Abu’ who was a distant cousin of Nezar Hindawi, persuaded him to carry out the plot using Ann to take the bomb onto the El Al Jumbo jet. Tov Levy followed Nezar and Ann to Heathrow and had informed El Al, Special Branch and MI5 officers, so there was never a chance the bomb would be taken onto the plane. The aim was to force Britain and other countries such as the US to sever all diplomatic relations with Syria. Gordon Thomas spoke with Hindawi who still maintains that he was the victim of a Mossad sting operation.
Although this sounds like a classic conspiracy theory, it was believed at a very high political level. Two weeks after the trial the French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac was interviewed on tape by Arnaud de Borchgrave, the editor of the Washington Times. When he was asked about the attempt to blow up the El Al plane Chirac said he had been told by the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that they believe it had been set up by Mossad agents to embarrass Syria and destabilise the Assad regime. A political storm broke out when the story appeared, and Chirac did the only thing he could and said he had been misquoted.
Israeli intelligence operative Ari Ben-Menashe wrote in his memoir in 1992 that the Hindawi affair was an operation which had been conceived by Mossad. The organiser of the plot was Rafi Eitan who led Israeli intelligence's anti-terrorist group. The operation was meant to implicate the Syrian embassy in London as involved in terrorism and have all the Syrian diplomats expelled from England. Jordanian Mohammed Radi Abdullah, a paid Israeli agent, offered his cousin Hindawi $50,000 to place explosives by way of his girlfriend on the El Al flight.
|Document:The plot to blow up El Al Flight 016||Article||6 April 2019||Marianne Colloms|
|Two weeks after Nezar Hindawi's trial, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac was interviewed on tape by Arnaud de Borchgrave, the editor of the Washington Times. When he was asked about the attempt to blow up the El Al plane Chirac said he had been told by the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that they believe it had been set up by Mossad agents to destabilise Syria's Assad regime.|
- "El Al bomber too dangerous to release, court rules"
- "SYRIA RESPONDS BY CUTTING TIES WITH BRITAIN"
- "Ann Marie Murphy Case (1986)"
- "President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism" page iii
- "The Crash of Flight 103; PAN AM WAS TOLD OF TERROR THREAT"
- "Review: Shame, fear and terrorism in ‘The English Bride’"
- "Theatre review by Neil Genzlinger"
- "THE ENGLISH BRIDE BY LUCILE LICHTBLAU"
- "English Bride Interview with Lucile Lichtblau"
- Document:The plot to blow up El Al Flight 016
- "Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network"