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The Libyan weapons trail: How Gaddafi armed the IRA.

The Eskund

By Deirdre Younge

Kingsberry case

The High Court in Belfast granted permission in early July for the family of a former member of the UDA, William Kingsberry – shot dead in 1991, to sue Libya for supplying the assault rifle used by the IRA unit that killed him. 

Col Gaddafi of Libya and President Nasser of Egypt.

New approach

The Kingsberry case, which is civil not criminal, is a new approach to gaining compensation for those killed or injured by Libyan-supplied matériel – and will be the first of many.

The PSNI initially refused to confirm that Libyan-supplied Semtex was used in explosions after 1986; but a case brought by Belfast solicitors  KRWLaw in Belfast on behalf of a number of victims has established the link to the AKM rifle used in the 1991  Kingsberry case. The  Kingsberry case creates a precedent for many other victims. 

Aftermath of Real IRA Semtex bomb in Omagh


Many were killed or injured in bombs made with the powerful Czechoslovakian-manufactured but Libyan-supplied semtex explosive which was used in massive bomb and mortar attacks. The massive increase in lethal bombings  fuelled with  semtex created hundreds of victims killed  or maimed after 1986. 

The first so-called ‘spectacular’ was the explosion at the Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen in November 1987 which left eleven dead and others with horrific injuries, causing shock and revulsion. According to Irish Government documents Gerry Adams believed it was an IRA own goal. It also came at a time when Adams was building up Sinn Féin, the  political wing of the movement,  and there were tentative moves towards talks.

FRU agent Peter Keeley claimed to have knowledge of Colleen McMurray’s murder. See also Investigation: Killusion

RUC woman Colleen McMurray was murdered in 1991 when a mortar boosted by semtex was fired at the police car in which she was travelling in Newry. The 1996 Docklands bombings in London were ignited by semtex. 

It was also used by so called ‘Dissidents’ to make the Banbridge bomb and the devastating Omagh bomb in 1998.

Victims of all these atrocities are pushing for recognition and compensation.

British Government reluctance

So far, the British Government has refused to directly compensate victims of IRA Libyan-supplied weapons and semtex explosives out of the former overthrown leader General Muammaur Gaddafi’s funds, long frozen in British banks. 

It also refuses to publish a report it commissioned on the issue of compensation, from ex-journalist and member of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross.

Action in Northern Ireland 

Actions in Northern Ireland are aimed at the British-Government-controlled funds in the UK. 

In 2011 Solicitor Jason McCue, who represents victims of the  post-ceasefire Docklands bombings of 1996 and who acted for the Omagh Bomb relatives in their compensation case, obtained a letter from the Transitional  Libyan Government. It’s not clear what weight the letter carries. 

The issue of compensating victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland has been mired in an argument about definitions. In the case of Libya it’s also entangled with the long and murky history of the various intelligence services’ involvement in Libya and the fractured politics post-Gaddafi. 


 Whether the post-Gaddafi state, weak and divided, should be expected to pay reparations may be moot but that is by no means the case with the interest now accruing to the British Government from Gaddafi funds in UK banks which could, in practice, be used to compensate victims.

Sovereign Wealth Fund

The new Libyan Prime Minister, Abdelhamid Dabaiba, has reportedly reached a deal with the Chairman of the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund – the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) – Ali Mahmoud Hassan, whereby Dabaiba will receive €1 billion  via the Central Bank of Libya for his cash-strapped Government. The deal shows the central importance in general terms of the Libyan fund and that the key is its control by Hassan, a former Gaddafi ally.

Bahraini bank

According to the French-based Africa Intelligence  the LIA  is sourcing the funds from CBL’s Bahraini subsidiary, ABC Bank. Most of the LIA’s assets abroad, amounting to billions of dollars, have been frozen since sanctions were imposed on Gaddafi. 

Gaddafi investments in UK and Ireland

Gaddafi invested in everything from Pearson Inc to RBS to office blocks to villages he liked when he went on sovereign visits. It has been alleged there is €1.5billion in Irish banks. There is around £11 billion in frozen Gaddafi-era funds in banks in the UK from which the British Government receives substantial interest payments. 

It is from these assets in British Banks that lawyers will try to source the money for a compensation  fund. 

The Libyan Government itself has been without a budget since  March. Caught up in the internal politics of Libya and competing loyalties of politicians, some loyal to General Haftar the former Gaddafi-era exile and ‘warlord’ are making their support conditional on appointment of Haftar allies from the east of the country, to strategic positions. 

General Haftar.

The Sovereign Fund is at the centre of allegations of the embezzlement of billions of dollars during the Gaddafi era. The Prime Minister himself has taken control of the Libyan Asset Recovery and Management Office  [LARMO] in an effort to keep control of investigations into corruption in various state organisations.

[Africa Intelligence,  02/07/2021] 

Hassan was in control of some of the organisations in question during the Gaddafi era and he is also the focus of scrutiny by the international community including the US State Department, for the lack of transparency in management of the Libyan Wealth Fund. It’s in this tangled atmosphere of competing interests and loyalties that the issue of compensation plays out.

After Gaddafi

The disastrous lack of preparation for the aftermath of the fall of the Gaddafi regime, by the UK and France in particular, left Libya divided in four between a powerless internationally recognised Government of National Accord; General Haftar – a returned exile from the US, who has shifting and tenuous  control of the valuable oil fields; the so called Tobruk administration; and various militias both Islamic and other. Al Qaeda has a presence in the desert regions. 

Despite promises made by the Government of National Accord, the administration in Tripoli, it is questionable if the present Government  could implement any deal even if one was agreed. 

One source, who was based in Libya until recently, says there is  no public appetite in Libya to pay compensation for the overseas misadventures of the man the Libyans overthrew in 2011, and it would be a very tough sell for any politician. 

The history: Libyan supplies arrive from 1985

Between 1985 and 1987 the IRA succeeded in landing four huge shipments of weapons and explosives from Libya on the Co Wicklow coast. The last shipment, and what was to be the largest, on board the ‘Eksund’ was captured by French customs in the Bay of Biscay on 30 October 1987. It had reportedly been tracked by M16, a British Royal Navy submarine and, crucially, the French customs on the lookout for drug smugglers crossing the Mediterranean. 

Bruguiere gets to grips

The operation proved a major intelligence coup for the French and the resulting two-year investigation by the anti-terrorist  Magistrate, Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere, yielded prodigious amounts of intelligence about Libyan supplies to the IRA and the modus operandi of Libyan intelligence. Enough evidence accrued for Judge Bruguieres to bring charges against the top Libyan intelligence agents. 


Bruguiere’s  investigation added to his reputation as an anti-terrorist specialist and he went on to investigate the explosion on board a French jet, UTA Flight 772, over Niger in September 1989, en route from Congo to Paris.  Ultimately the Libyans agreed to pay $34 million in compensation to the bereaved relatives of those passengers. Again Bruguiere definitively pointed the finger at Libyan intelligence – accusing them of initiating the plot to bring a suitcase bomb onto the French jet. 


The UTA bomb came a year after the explosion on board a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie in December 1988, in which again Libya was implicated. 

Lockerbie in particular ensured Libya’s pariah status and the passing of UN Resolution 731 condemning terrorism and expressing concern over the results of investigations implicating Libya. 

The Gaddafi regime spent years dealing with international sanctions imposed after Libya failed to comply with the UN resolutions. The Lockerbie case still remains open after three decades as evidenced by recent arrests of Libyan intelligence officers. 

In 2001 a Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was extradited from Libya to stand trial after years of sanctions put pressure on Gaddafi. Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 on 207 counts of murder but was released from prison early on compassionate grounds, and died in Libya. His conviction was, and is still, surrounded by controversy. 

Judge Bruguiere also investigated the attempted arms deal between Ulster Resistance leader, Loyalist Noel Little, and  a South African diplomat, in a Paris hotel room in 1989. 

The Eksund

n October 1987, after interception by customs and a failed attempt by an IRA man to scupper the ship, the Eksund was taken to a French military docks in Brest where its cargo of weapons and explosives was unloaded and documented. 

Within days Eugene Crowley, Assistant Garda Commissioner and the Head of Special Branch Ned O’Dea, travelled to France to be briefed by Judge Bruguiere. The information gleaned from the interrogation of the crew, particularly Captain Adrian Hopkins, and the huge amount of documentation from the ships manifest detailing the massive 150 ton shipment  gave Bruguiere and Irish intelligence specialists an unrivalled insight into the Libyan shipments.

Bruguiere was satisfied that he had established that one of the Heads of Libyan intelligence, Nasser Al-Ashur,  had organised and helped the loading operation for the Eksund on Tripoli military docks. Ali Ashur had allegedly worked with Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy to organise the shipments. 

Father Patrick Ryan, using his clerical mission as a front, helped to distribute the weapons around the country.  Adrian Hopkins who had captained all four shipments was a charter-boat operator who needed the money.  

Crowley and O’Dea interviewed Hopkins in Paris and, according to political sources, persuaded him that only co-operation with the Garda could save him from a long stretch in the notorious La Santé high-security French prison in Montmartre. 

Hopkins  was granted bail and made his way back to Ireland  where he was then arrested, tried and sentenced to eight years in jail. Assistant Commissioner Crowley briefed the Minister for Justice Gerry Collins as well as Jack Hermon the RUC Chief Constable, about how Libyan intelligence officers had aided the massive re-arming of the IRA.

The Department of Foreign Affairs files contain an extract from the American State Department report from January 1987.  They accepted, on the basis of Judge Bruguiere’s information, that the Eksund had been supplied by Libya. 

Frank Hegarty


Frank Hegarty had been appointed IRA Quartermaster in Derry just as the Libyan shipments were due to arrive. The first shipment of about ten tons of armaments was transferred from the Libyan ship “Samra Africa” off the Maltese coast onto the British-flagged “Casa Mora” and landed in Co Wicklow in the summer of 1985. 

Frank Hegarty shot by the Provisional IRA’s ‘Nutting Squad’.

Some of the haul was held in bunkers in Sligo and Roscommon under Hegarty’s direction. Hegarty had earlier been recruited as a British army intelligence/ Force Research Unit (FRU) informant.  He was removed by his military handlers and relocated to the UK in January 1986, just before a bunker containing Libyan weaponry was discovered.

Months later Hegarty suffered homesickness, and returned home to Derry. Despite assurances given by Martin McGuinness, he was interrogated, allegedly  by Freddie Scappaticci and shot dead in  May 1986.  

Freddie Scappaticci

Frank Carlin, who had become an agent for Military Intelligence’s Force Research Unit in Derry, deals with the Hegarty affair in his book ‘Thatcher’s Spy’. Carlin maintained that a ‘safe house’ had been prepared for Hegarty’s extraction  between November and December 1985, weeks earlier than it happened:

“Frank Hegarty’s time in the IRA was nearly up after the huge weapons haul from Libya was captured in Donegal. It had been Frank’s task to safely store the weapons until they could be taken across the border for IRA operations. Strangely though these weapons were not officially ‘found’ until January 1986, which evokes the question: why did Hegarty’s handlers prepare the ground for his exfiltration four to five months before the arsenal was ‘discovered’? The answer I suspect lies in high politics”.

Operation Juno

The  intelligence gleaned from the Eksund triggered a huge search operation by the Garda called ‘Operation Juno’, a countrywide sweep conducted between 1990 and 1991. They now knew the extent of the four shipments that had already landed in Co Wicklow since 1986. 

Slab Murphy

The Daily Telegraph reported that Tom ‘Slab’ Murphy flew into Split in Yugoslavia on May 28,1989, allegedly to discuss more shipments with Nasser Ali Ashur, but decided to abandon the idea. 

Slab Murphy  

Murphy’s compound on the border at Ballybinny was raided in June 1989 in connection with the murders the previous March of RUC officers  Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, and a false passport was found with a stamp from Split in Yugoslavia dated May 1989.  

Moussa Kusa – the head of Libyan intelligence – and Ali Ashur subsequently handed over the files about the shipments to the IRA in meetings with M16 in 1991 and 1992,  according to the French publication  Intelligence Online

Finds at Donegal, Portmarnock, Ballivor, Patrickswell

In January 1988 there was a find of Libyan-supplied matériel including five machine guns, 100 Kalashnikov rifles, 50 kG of semtex and 50,000 rounds of ammunition on Five Fingers Strand in Donegal.  This provided the Garda forensic officers and Army ordnance specialists a first opportunity to analyse semtex, the Czechoslovakian-manufactured, military-grade explosive. 

Further finds followed at Portmarnock in Dublin; Ballivor, Co Meath; and Patrickswell, Limerick. 

For the IRA it was then becoming more difficult to transport weapons along its supply line running from Co Limerick to the border, with a branch off to Co Kerry. The logistics were tightly controlled by the Quartermaster General Michael McKevitt in Dundalk who had around 18 personnel operating to him. The Irish Government was in no doubt the Libyans were supplying the IRA. 

Semtex-fuelled explosions 

 British Governments have stepped gingerly around the issue of seeking compensation from Libya – not surprising considering M16’s  murky history in the country  involving agents, plots and counterplots and a final failed attempt at a rapprochement  with Gaddafi and members of his family by the Blair Labour Government.  

Lockerbie and Libyan intelligence. 

Abdelasset Al-Megrahi never stopped claiming his innocence over his role in the Lockerbie bombing but he dropped a final appeal to secure release on compassionate grounds. 

He died in Libya after release. His family were granted an appeal of his conviction  which  has been rejected by the Scottish High Court (January 15 2021).

In 2012, after the fall of the regime, the Lord Advocate of Scotland Frank Mulholland travelled to Libya with  FBI Head Robert  Mueller to discuss the Lockerbie investigations with the Transitional National Government, and submitted an International letter of Request for Cooperation. 

The Scottish authorities recently identified Abu Mohammed Masud and Abdallagh al-Senoussi as suspects while Nasser Ali Ashour, one of the most senior Libyan intelligence officers in the old regime and the liaison with the IRA for decades, was named as the “mastermind” of the Lockerbie bombing.  

Recently terrorism charges were formally announced against Masud who is suspected by the American authorities of making the bomb that brought down the Pan Am jet over Lockerbie. Masud is being held in Libya. 

In September  2011, five months after Moussa Kusa the former Head of Intelligence  defected, aided by M16, the offices of the Libyan Intelligence apparatus were searched by Human Rights Watch, leading to the discovery of thousands of  intelligence documents. 

They revealed the extent of the relationship between Libyan Intelligence heads, the CIA and  M16. 

Letters and telexes showed extensive links between M16 head Sir Mark Allen and Moussa Kusa and others. They showed that  by 2000 the British and American  Intelligence services were cooperating with Kusa in capturing Libyan Islamic dissidents and rendering them to Libya for interrogation and torture. 

In  June 1992 Intelligence Online  carried a report that said: “Nasser Ali Ashur is the key man in relations between Libyan intelligence services and the IRA. He participated in the recent secret negotiations between Libya and M15 that took place in Cairo and Alexandria in mid-August …and again during the first week of September. These talks are not however believed to have produced any concrete results”.

Moussa Kusa.

George W Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ led to a change of attitude to Gaddafi. There was now a common enemy – Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan and elsewhere, many of them Libyans opposition to Gaddafi who facilitated their rendition to ‘black sites’ where they were interrogated by British and American intelligence operatives. 

One of the Islamists M16 and the CIA captured with Libyan help was Abdel Kamik Belhadj, suspected of involvement in the Madrid bombings of 1994 and accused of being an ally of Al Queda. 

Captured in Bangkok in 2004 by the CIA he was held in a CIA ‘black site’ then flown back to Libya and jailed. He was later released after negotiations with Saif Gaddafi and the Muslim brotherhood. He moved to Qatar and after the Libyan uprising he formed part of the Gaddafi opposition that took over Libya.

 Belhadj subsequently got an unreserved apology from the UK Government for contributing to his mistreatment in a statement read out in Parliament while he watched from the public gallery. He also got an out of court settlement. He has Irish links. 

Yvonne Fletcher.

According to the UK Independent newspaper: “the material raises questions about the relationship between Moussa Kusa and the British Government and the turn of events following his defection. Mr Kusa’s surprising arrival in Britain led to calls for him to be questioned about his alleged involvement in murders abroad by the Libyan regime, including that of policeman Yvonne Fletcher and opponents of Gaddafi. He was also involved in the sending of arms to the IRA”. [The Independent, 3 September, 2011].

The IRA and Libya 

The IRA’s relationship with Libya began in the early 1970s when Joe Cahill, later its chief of staff, made contact with Gaddafi and set up what was to be the first major shipment from Tripoli docks. 

Joe Cahill on the left in cap and glasses.

Leslie Aspin: former soldier, grifter, drug and gun smuggler was pressed into service by M16 in the late 1960s. According to Aspin he used his British army special forces training to sell his skills to the Libyans and ran training camps in the desert training Palestinian ‘Black September’ members and IRA men. 

His book contains detailed drawings of the camps. Murphy is alleged to have trained in Libyan camps in the early 1970s.  Aspin also claims to have supplied weapons and explosives to the IRA in Dublin and helped the Libyan Military Intelligence contact he referred to as ‘The Colonel’ to load the Claudia in Tripoli in 1973. The Claudia was seized in 1973 off Helvick Head in Waterford, probably betrayed not just by Aspin but  by an enemy of Joe Cahill in the IRA. 

A number of other shipments from Libya had reached Ireland containing rocket-launchers, rifles, explosives and handguns.

By the very early 1980s the regime was making diplomatic overtures and assuring European Governments that they condemned terrorists like the Baader Meinhof Gang and ETA, though Gaddafi occasionally made references which worried the diplomatic Corps. 

Bobby McDonagh, the Irish Ambassador to Rome, who was  also accredited to Libya sent a memo on a conversation he had  with the British Ambassador in June 1981: 

“The Ambassador made a brief reference to the IRA when I called on him. Certainly there had been some involvement in the past and it was known that IRA and UDA people had visited Tripoli. However, he had failed to uncover any aid to the IRA in recent years although rumours of such aid and of IRA representatives being seen in Tripoli were persistent”.

Shortly after that, Gaddafi made a speech: “We are against the Red Brigades. We consider them to be a terrorist group and we have never furnished military assistance to them or to the guerrillas of the IRA or Salvador. We are decidedly against terrorism”.

That all changed in April 1984 with the shooting of policewoman Yvonne Fletcher  outside the Libyan embassy in London by a suspected Libya Intelligence officer. 

The killing of the police woman made Libya a ‘pariah state’. The shooting had been directed at an anti-Gaddafi  protest. The  Libyans were required to close their ‘People’s Bureau’ leading to fears that Ireland would now become a base for Libyan terrorism. 

Ireland exported thousands of live cattle to Libya every year and hundreds of Libyan students came to study every year; and so the Irish Government  maintained uneasy ‘friendly’ relations. 

State Department  Cables on Libya, an investigative website, obtained,  through a Freedom of Information request to the American State Department, a series of secret US State Department Cables on Libya from their embassy in Ireland, the UK and Paris in the 1980s. 

In May 1984, after police Constable Fletcher was shot dead, a confidential cable from the Embassy in Dublin to the Secretary of State in Washington was copied to London and Belfast embassies.  It was headed: 

‘Libyan Irish Relations 

The spectre of aid to the IRA’

.. “Ireland’s Libyan community numbers 487 and it, plus the GOI, face several problems in terms of support since the closure of the London bureau. Of more concern to Dublin however is Colonel Gaddafi’s threat to resume aid to the IRA in retaliation for HMG’S close-down of the London bureau.  The Irish have warned Tripoli that Dublin would view such aid with great alarm. Libyan authorities have assured Dublin that the British and not the Irish are the intended target”.

 The  American bombing of Tripoli  in retaliation for explosions attributed to Libya  which killed American civilians and  soldiers, in 1985, was a trigger for increased aid to the IRA. 

By the mid 1980s Libyan weapons were  flowing to the IRA whose weapons stocks had been running low, the American supply chain having been increasingly intercepted. 

The Americans were paying close and concerned  attention to developments in Ireland, recognising the political dependence on trade with Libya of a depressed economy and cash-strapped Government. 

 The American Embassy in Dublin telexed to the State Department in April 1986 with worrying news:

“In light of press accounts reported [by] REFTEL, we sought an update from our local sources on the evidence of a connection between the January 1986 Sligo arms find and Libya…Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Donlon told our Deputy Chief of Mission that some rifles from the find had been connected to Libya. And that the British statements on the PIRA/Libya connection has been approved by the Government of Ireland although the wording in those must be strictly adhered to”.


Tom Murphy, who had  allegedly been appointed to the IRA’s GHQ in 1985, and the Libyan intelligence officer Nasser Ali Ashur, were to arrange at least four shipments into Ireland from Libya. All were skippered by  Adrian Hopkins  and organised by Tom Murphy. 

The  French investigation, led by Judge Louis Bruguiere after the capture of the Eksund in 1987, detailed the vast amount  of matériel in the shipments as well as the logistics involved in their delivery about which he informed American diplomats.

By the time of the Eksund capture, the IRA had more semtex then it could use, stashed in bunkers around Ireland controlled by Quartermaster Michael McKevitt. 

Michael McKevitt

The Garda increasingly began to find the caches in remote locations but it was the seizure of the Eksund in October 1987 that really drew international  attention to the IRA’s Libya connection. 

 The Minister for Justice Gerry Collins  laid out the facts  in the Dáil. All the crew were Irish with two carrying passports stolen in 1984 from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The largest consignment of arms sent to Ireland was in French hands. They believed the consignment had been loaded on 14 October in Tripoli and was personally approved by Gadhafi. By now the Garda were in France being briefed by Bruguiere and interrogating the crew.

While the American State Department definitely claimed the ship’s cargo was from Libya they were in fact dependent on Bruguiere for information and he was wary of political interference. 

In November 1988 an American Diplomat was briefed by Bruguiere on the progress of his investigation who telexed the State Department:

Bruguiere explained he had devoted most of his efforts to establishing who exactly in the Libyan Government was behind the shipment. He has identified a certain Nasir Mehdi Ashur (alias Naser) as the chief culprit. Bruguiere claimed that he had ‘incontrovertible proof’ that Ashur was “intimately involved” in the operation. To the point of directing the loading of the arms onto the Eksund. Bruguiere said he planned to issue an international arrest warrant before the end of the year.

In April 1988 Tom King, the UK’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was pointing the finger firmly at Libya. 

Tom King

 The State Department in Washington was informed that Judge Bruguiere was ready to issue Interpol “blue [search] notices” for Nasser Ali Ashur and other Libyan intelligence operatives who he claimed had masterminded the Libyan arms shipments to the IRA and that he had proven “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that Ashur had personally supervised the five deliveries. 

 He said that while “the Government of France could prosecute the crew of the Eksund itself as the ship had blundered into French waters,  this infraction of French law may be too tenuous to enable Bruguiere also to seek the arrest of those who facilitated the shipments from outside France”. 

He added, however, that “Malta or the UK would face no such legal  impediment since some of the crimes took place in Maltese waters and all were directed against the UK”.

Bruguiere’s international search warrants for the six Libyans including Nasser Ashur were the result of Bruguiere  unravelling the nexus running  from Malta to Tripoli that for decades had been a crossroads for smuggling and gun-running. 

None of the suspects were in fact arrested over the shipments.

 Bruguiere was right to be wary of political interference in his judicial inquiries into  Libya and Gaddafi . 

British Intelligence was to spend the next two decades conspiring to overthrow Gaddafi while attempting to infiltrate or recruit members of the security apparatus and they were successful to an extent. 


As mentioned earlier, by 1992 the French publication Intelligence Newsletter reported that Libyan and British officials were due to meet under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva to allow Libya to hand over details of help it had given to the IRA. This was on foot of an offer from the Libyans in exchange for lifting the air embargo against Libya.

Investigations and compensation

Bruguiere, after an 8 year  investigation, achieved a massive compensation payment for French victims of the plane bombing in  1989 over Niger.

Bruguiere’s investigation, conducted in close co-operation with the CIA and the FBI,  concluded that the effective head of Libyan Intelligence Abdelsalam Senoussi , who was Gaddafi’s brother in law, instigated the plot to bomb the French aircraft in revenge for France’s aid to Chad – then in dispute with Libya. 

In 1999 a seven-judge panel convicted six Libyans and sentenced them in absentia. The Libyans paid over $33 million in reparations and a victims’ advocacy group later received €170million from a Gaddafi family charity.

 UN resolutions 731 of January 1992, and  883 of November 1993 imposed additional  heavy sanctions on Libya to ensure compliance with an earlier resolution 731 which demanded that Libya submit the bombing suspects to the appropriate legal authorities and prove it had ceased support for international terrorism. France had already used the economic weapon of cutting its oil purchases from Libya.  The screw was being turned on Gaddafi.

In August 2003 the Libyan Government accepted responsibility “for the actions of its officials” regarding the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie. After Libya took further steps to comply with UN Resolutions the UN voted to remove  sanctions. They were lifted permanently in September 2004. The Libyan Government paid over a total of $2.7billion or $10 million for each victim.   

When sanctions were lifted and during the so-called ‘War on Terror’ Libya, perceived as ‘opening up’, was the subject of overtures by Tony Blair. As Ethan Chorin pointed out in his book, ‘Exit the Colonel’ (2012): 

“Blair’s interest in Libya and Gaddafi dates back at least to his early days as Prime Minister. British intelligence played a key role in the Lockerbie deal and the lifting of UN sanctions in 1999; Blair made his first official visit to Tripoli in 2003 and spent the subsequent years heavily promoting Libya-UK commercial deals”. As Chorin pointed out Blair continued to have a keen interest in Libya and after retirement from politics made half a dozen visits to Libya for “commercial reasons”. Blair was at the time the EU’s Middle East Peace Envoy. He subsequently lobbied for JP Morgan in relation to possible business deals. 

Blair’s actions looked questionable in the context of the subsequent  Libyan Revolution. 

The British and American rendition of members of the Islamist opposition resulted in torture in ‘Black sites’ and were followed by rendition to Libya and further torture or execution. Islamist leader Belhadj, rendered from Bangkok, was one of the lucky ones who lived to receive compensation. 

 Muammaar Gaddafi was brutally killed on 20 October 2011, after  the battle of Sirte during the Libyan Revolution. The anti-Gaddafi rebels, including the formerly-hunted ‘Islamicists’, were supported on the battlefield  by French and British airpower.  

The Faustian pact between the Gaddafi  regime and the US and Britain, though  now at an end, provided important information to the various intelligence services. Moussa Kusa, described by Chorin as “perhaps acting as a double agent” was believed to have supplied the CIA and M16 with valuable intelligence “including (the names of) black market suppliers”.

The success of the case brought by the family of  UDA man William Kingsberry has changed the basis for victims to claim compensation.

Civil actions now appear to be the only way for victims to get compensation.

 Meanwhile a fractured and impoverished Libyan polity attempts to achieve stability while billions of dollars of Gaddafi funds, often embezzled from the Libyan State, lie in international banks, frozen and  the subject of multiple stymied investigations. 


A murky affair: the Garda made no progress into the IRA murder of Tom Oliver until an intervention by Drew Harris, then with the PSNI, now Garda Commissioner.

How Drew Harris diverted the Smithwick Tribunal.

Nailing Harry Breen

Investigation: Killusion

Drew Harris Drawn in.



New DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson alleged that a Garda mole was involved in the IRA murder of two RUC officers.