"Abu Elias" and his Alleged Names
April 13 2010
last edits 4/30
Abu Elias was the terrorist-world code-name of a certain high-ranking member of the PFLP-GC as of late 1988. Though a blond Christian born with blue eyes in Lebanon, he was reportedly the nephew of the dark-haired, nominally Muslim PFLP-GC leader and founder Ahmed Jibril, and working for him in Syria in violent opposition to Israel. “Abu Elias” is also suspected by many (including myself) to be the real Lockerbie bomber, but was never caught after making off with Khreesat’s fifth bomb. The fugitive was eventually forgotten by investigators as some Libyans took the blame, but as explained in another post, he wasn’t forgotten by everyone. “Abu Elias” was reported in 1992 to have the real name of Khaisar Haddad, and to have built that fifth bomb himself, and in 2009 he was mentioned again as being re-named Basel Bushnaq and living safely in Washington DC with a government job.
I’m not sure yet what to do with this knowledge, considering Basel A Bushnaq is still sitting over there and I could easily get his phone number. As I mull it over, or wait for him to step up himself, or for him to start over again with a new town and name, I thought it might be interesting to explore some available information, including the three names that have been attached to the same guy. Who - again - was an expert in airport security, sent by his uncle we hear to make sure the bomb was live and got onto a plane, just two months before success over Lockerbie.
Literally, this name means “Father of Elias,” with Abu being a form for ‘father of’ in Arabic, popular among terrorists, and Elias being the Greek rendering for the prophet Elijah. Elijah in Hebrew means “Yahweh is my God,” and Wikipedia says Elias is a common name among Middle Eastern Christians, especially in Lebanon. Elijah/Elias is of course a major, major figure in the Judaic/biblical mythology, and one with no known father. He’s said to be able to raise the dead and work other miracles, classed near Moses among the revered ghosts, and expected to return to Earth to herald Christ’s return and the apocalypse. (Or has returned, if you’re Mormon). Judging by his chosen name, no small ambitions had this one.
This name was reported by Arafat's PLO in a 1992 report as the real name of Abu Elias, Lockerbie bomber. The family name ‘Haddad’ means ‘blacksmith,’ and is also the name of a Pre-Islamic Semitic storm god. Wikipedia says the name is held largely by Middle Eastern Christians, and the most common single surname in Lebanon. Sounds like a plausible real family name for a Lebanese Christian.
The given name Khaisar doesn’t appear much, or at all, in Arabic names as far as I’ve been able to find. The same spelling, however, was once a Beluchi word for the Tamarix tree. This I learned from an old book Google's got, explaining how dense growths of such trees was said to have given a name to the Khaisar Lora river in Baluchistan, modern-day Pakistan. (p 33). That's probably not it.
In English and other “Christian” languages, Khaisar of course sounds just like Kaiser, the German variant of Caesar (Russian is Czar). Please note how a person could get used to having a grandiose name that means emperor, king, etc. It also echoes (or is echoed by?) the fictional Keyser Söze, elusive super-villain of The Usual Suspects (1995).
The latest alleged “family” name held by this guy called “alias Abu Elias” is Bushnaq. If we're looking at the same guy, it's clearly a name of choice, not birth. Otherwise... This seems to be Arabic for “Bosnian,” as per an article on Lofti Bouchnaq, a renowned composer, oud player and singer, born 1954 in Tunis. His family name (with given variants Bushnaq, Boushnak, and Bouchnak) “in Arabic means “Bosnian,” suggesting that his family may have arrived in Tunisia from Europe as slave-soldiers from Bosnia during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule.” So also says the “Bushnak International Union” page at Myspace; “every one of us is a refugee from our dear and beloved countrey [sic] Bosnia.” Basel A. has not popped in yet. I don’t think Khaisar Haddad has any Bosnian ancestry, but it’s possible.
One other unusual feature of this name, importing the foreign “Bushn” from Bosnia, makes it among the very few (or only?) plausible Arabic family name that contains "Bush", when one or another of that family may have overseen Basel A’s assimilation as a Virginian. An honorary nod to his new benefactors? (At Myspace he lists many prominent Republicans as his favorites, but avoids this contrast by excluding the Bushes)
The suspect’s first name “Basel” (as pronounced by its revealor Christine Graham, anyway) is most obviously evocative of the city of just that name in Switzerland – an international hub in a famously neutral country. One site does offer Basel, probably pronounced different, as an “African-Muslim name popular in Sudan, meaning 'brave.'” The name name Basel does pop up with unsure origins in a Google search attached to at least one Palestinian and one Jordanian. I also hear it's fairly common in Syria, where both Abu Elias and Basel Bushnaq (judging from online commentary) have roots. In all, it probably means the same as in Sudan. It would take a brave man to blow up PA103 and then, without state help, take up residence so near the US capitol.
Most importantly for our purposes, Basel is first on Wikipedia’s list of variants on Basil, meaning royal or kingly, from the Greek Vassillos, meaning King. That original spawned names for the herb Basil, the structure Basilica, and people like Czars Vassili I, II, III. and IV of Russia. Thus Basel continues to be a decent replacement if one’s old name had been Kaiser and the new one still had to sound okay in Arabic. There it means courageous.
So ‘emperor blacksmith’ becomes terrorist mover ‘father of Elijah’, and all that carries, then he allegedly starts a new life as ‘brave Bosnian’ and/or ‘kingly vassal of the Kaisers Bush.’ That’s a heck of a lot of reading into it, but there is a compelling psycho-logic to the whole string. It goes on the "hmmmm" pile.