Abu Elias: Guarded by Power?

6 October 2010
last update 10 October

Abu Elias was a potentially central figure in the actual bombing of Pan Am 103, a supposed nephew of PFLP-GC founder Ahmed Jibril. Some evidence says he may well have slipped through the police dragnet called Autumn Leaves, ferrying the "fifth device" that may ultimately have gotten onto Pan Am 103. This is largely based on the second-hand account of Marwan Khreesat via an FBI agent (best explanation here), and is open to question. For the sake of exploration, however, I've chosen to proceed as if Khreesat's tale of Abu Elias is true.

In my first post on his post-Lockerbie history ended with the credible allegation that Abu Elias was now living in the United States. Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the South of Scotland, Christine Grahame, revealed this in parliamentary session, citing legal documents secured by Megrahi's defense team. She said he was living under the name Basel Bushnaq, who's listed as residing in Reston Virginia, near the nation's capitol and the monument to the victims of flight 103 at Arlington cemetery.

I still don't know what to do with that allegation, but toss it aside reflexively I cannot. A second post on name analysis suggests nothing concrete, but offers some reason to wonder. Basel, meaning "kingly," is evocative of Abu Elias' original true name, Kaisar (meaning, of course, Caesar). Bushnaq is a legitimate Arabic family name, meaning Bosnian/Bosniac, but coincidentally it's also the only Arabic name with "Bush" in it. The data I've collected on Bushnaq starts suddenly in mid-2001, with nothing before.

I've gathered additional information on Mr. Bushnaq, none of which has forced me to rule out what Ms. Grahame said over there in Scotland. Some of it is personal enough I should continue sitting on it, but some is publicly available and widely seen already. In general, online commentery under his name (or variant BaBushnaq) suggest a background in Syria, a nuanced view of the Baath party, animosities with the Muslim Brotherhood, and no particular religious fervor. This could well be consistent with Abu Elias - a conservative Lebanese Christian working in a mainly Muslim milieu.

In 2008, the Investigative Project on Terrorism captured on audio “jailed former leader of the American Muslim Council (AMC), Abdurahman Alamoudi, expressing his support for Hamas and Hizballah.” Mr. Bushnaq commented, on October 15 2008:
“American system was too good for him. He lived in fancy house in Virginia paid for from contribution money he used to collect from Saudi Arabia and Golf countries. He used all privileges of freedom of speech and movement.
[...] Eventually he could not hide his real mission; influenced by emotional moment, he disclosed his reality in public. [...] I am happy that this episode of crime and terror is over, hope he will learn in jail the minimum amount of decency.”
Just after Megrahi's release from prison on 20 August, 2009, the "Lockerbie bomber" publicly threatened to name the real bomber. On the 23rd, the Sunday Express (Scotland) published an e-mail from an unnamed suspect “X” who had reportedly been Abu Elias. They had asked him if they could publish his name, and Bushnaq responded:
“Sorry, I don’t think that I can help in this case. It is a clear case of either mistaken identity and/or fabrication. I don’t wish my name to be mentioned in any capacity in the press. I am sure you understand the sensitivity of this matter since I have a family and children.”[source]
On September 2 Christine Grahame named this mysterious suspect anyway, in open session. Bushnaq was immediately contacted by Channel 4 News, via his Facebook page, and made a comment that was seen across much of the UK and parts of the world:
"It has been brought to my attention that she has been repeating allegations against my name. I suggest that she stops this unless she has solid legal ground. It is not advisable to (go) recklessly slandering others, especially when this comes from MSP."[source]
One might expect a sudden change of tone from Mr. Bushnaq following this unsettling and unexpected episode. And in fact, the next “comment” I’ve found, from ten days later, is rather peculiar. On September 12, Bushnaq joined a site called “Mepeace,” apparently a Middle East peace-oriented Myspace knock-off, with Arabic and Hebrew lettering. Immediately after joining and thus declaring he was peace, Bushnaq posted the following photo and caption:

Peace must be guarded by power.

As far as I can tell that was his purpose for joining; his meager activity at Mepeace lasted but two days after that. It does have a slightly chilling effect. The same photo has been used since for his Facebook and Twitter avatars at least, where additional clues might reside. (indeed - the post "Bosnian in What Way?" starts there)

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