Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Can the Libyans solve a bin Laden mystery?

Until its final days, the regime of Libya's Colonel Gaddaffi liked to remind the West that it was his government that issued the very first arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden, way back in March 1998.
That warrant accused bin Laden and three Libyan accomplices of responsibility for the 1994 murders of Germany's top counter-terrorism officer, Silvan Becker and his wife Vera, in the coastal city of Sirte - ironically the place where Gaddaffi himself met his end in October. The warrant was forwarded to Interpol headquarters in Lyon France and on 15 April 1998 it was issued as an official international arrest warrant. However, the 'red notice' warrant received almost no publicity at the time and was only revealed years later in an obscure French book on bin Laden.
With the death of Gaddaffi and the capture of his intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi a few days ago, perhaps the true story of the Beckers' murder will be revealed.
At the heart of this story is the question of whether or not the Beckers were killed by Islamists opposed to the Gaddaffi regime or by the regime itself. 
According to the official story, Becker worked for Division Six, the terrorism department of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (the BfV). He had responsibility for Arab terrorism and latterly, for the Tamil LTTE. Vera Becker is also believed to have worked for the BfV and both were said to be working on the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing, elements of which were planned in Germany.
Working in such sensitive posts, they should never have been in Libya in the first place and no convincing explanation of how the couple ended up there on a 'sight-seeing' tour has ever been given.
However, on 10 March 1994, soon after arriving in Libya, the couple were both shot and taken to a military hospital in Sirte. Vera Becker died on 28 March and Silvan Becker died on 10 April 1994.
Were the couple on an officially 'unauthorised' visit to Libya - don't forget that Libya had been accused of bombing the La Belle nightclub in Berlin in April 1986 and that there were no diplomatic relations between the two countries - or was something else afoot? To this day, the BfV refuses to offer any further information on the affair or even to confirm that Becker was involved in the La Belle/Lockerbie investigations.
The Libyans accused three citizens - Faraj al-Alwan, Faez Abu Zeid al-Warfali and Faraj al-Chalabi, all members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Groups - of carrying out the killings on the instructions of Osama bin Laden. All three are still wanted by Interpol where their mugshots can be found on the official website.
However, other scenarios have been proposed. According to some reports, the Beckers travelled to Egypt under false identity to work with Egyptian intelligence officers evaluating the results of the embargo on Libya and to update their information on changes within the leadership of the Libyan intelligence community. Having finished their official business in Cairo, the couple headed up to Alexandria for a few days relaxation. 
According to this scenario, it was whilst they were in Alexandria that they were likely abducted and taken across the border to Libya where they were interrogated and later shot - although presumably the Libyans would have killed them outright rather than let them live.
The Interpol warrant for bin Laden was first revealed by French writers Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie in their book Bin Laden: the Hidden Truth. They maintained that the warrant was not acted upon or publicised because Western intelligence agencies, in particular MI6, were funding the Libyan Islamic Fighting Groups to the tune of £100,000 in the hope that they would assassinate Gaddaffi.
Whatever happened, with the departure of Gaddaffi and his security apparatus, there is now an opportunity to solve this case.

No comments: